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Remembering Nelson Mandela

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

After 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela walked into freedom .  Against all odds, the leader of a rebellion against South Africa's white apartheid government became the leader of national unity.

Mandela's decades long rebellion transformed him from a convicted traitor into a freedom fighter and international hero.

Mandela was born into a privileged family. He supported non-violence to bring about change. He became a lawyer and opened the first south African law firm to  defend blacks who were forced from their land.

But in 1960, Mandela turned militant when 69 black protestors were massacred.

"There are many people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence,” he said at the time.

Mandela lived up to his tribal name,  “Trouble-Maker, “repeatedly challenging authority. He was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government and sentenced to life in prison on South Africa’s infamous Robben Island.

He was cut off from the outside world - but Mandela’s message and his movement endured - his wife, Winnie, became his unofficial ambassador.

Finally, in 1990, Nelson Mandela was freed,

Mandela became South Africa's first black president and crafted a new constitution.He preached reconciliation and never spoke of retribution.

Mandela became a larger than life figure with rock star status. Celebrities, and world leaders came calling.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize and traveled the world, repairing South Africa’s image and promoting tolerance. Mandela and his wife Winnie divorced in 1996 – he later remarried.

Age eventually slowed him down. He retired from public life but continued to welcome dignitaries from around the world to his home. In June he was rushed to the hospital with a lung infection and stayed for three months. Family members say he fought to stay alive. He eventually went home but remained in critical condition.

Nelson Mandela was 95 years old.

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