The man who was arguably the world’s most famous prisoner passed yesterday at the age of 95. Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid views and during his time behind bars, he contracted tuberculosis but still managed to get a law degree through correspondence courses with the University of London. After his release in February of 1990, Mandela eventually went on to become a Nobel Peace Prize winner and South Africa’s first black president.
Nelson Mandela was, of course, a highly quotable man, but out of the myriad of his inspirational writings and utterances, I’ve specifically focused on the ones relating to imprisonment, freedom, and redemption. So, in celebration of a life well-lived, here’s a round-up of the Nelson Mandela quotes that best speak to prisoners and prison reformers:
- “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
- “I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.”
- “In my country we go to prison first and then become President. ”
- “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
- “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
- “The authorities liked to say that we received a balanced diet; it was indeed balanced — between the unpalatable and the inedible.”
- “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
- “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
- “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”
- “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”
What’s your favorite? Is there one I missed? Speak out in the comments section below or click here to make contributions to Mandela’s legacy.