Quotes from Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela


- “virtue and generosity will be rewarded in ways that one cannot know”
- “The white man shattered the abantu, the fellowship, of the various tribes. The white man was hungry and greedy for land, and the black man shared the land with him as they shared the air and water; land was not for man to possess. But the white man took the land as you might seize another man’s horse.”
- “For we Xhosas, and all black South Africans, are a conquered people. We are slaves in our own country. We are tenants on our own soil… The abilities, the intelligence, the promise of these young men will be squandered in their attempt to eke out a living doing the simplest, most mindless chores for the white man.”
            - Chief Meligqili, at Mandela’s circumcision/manhood ceremony
- “In those days, a black man with a B.A. was expected to scrape before a white man with a grade-school education. No matter how high a black man advanced, he was still considered inferior to the lowest white man.”
- “But we had committed to offense and violated no laws, and we could not be arrested…”
- “Gaur was his own man. He did not treat our employers with exaggerated courtesy, and often chided them for their treatment of Africans.”
- “Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savor their songs.”
- “In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility. As a member of the executive, I had to weigh arguments and make decisions, and expect to be criticized by rebels like myself.”
- “fear of prison is a tremendous hindrance to a liberation struggle.”
- “I could walk upright like a man, and look everyone in the eye with the dignity that comes from not having succumbed to oppression and fear.”
- “I was a young man who attempted to make up for his ignorance with militancy.”
- “To overthrow oppression has been sanctioned by humanity and is the highest aspiration of every free man.”
- “Like other enduring political documents, such as the American Declaration of Independence, the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, and the Communist Manifesto, the Freedom Charter is a mixture of practical goals and poetic language.”
- “In South Africa , to be poor and black was normal, to be poor and white was a tragedy.”
- “I discovered that Egyptians were creating great works of art and architecture when whites were still living in caves.”
- “I realized the role I could play in court and the possibilities before me as a defendant. I was the symbol of justice in the court of the oppressor, the representative of the great ideals of freedom, fairness, and democracy in a society that dishonored those virtues. I realized then and there that I could carry on the fight even within the fortress of the enemy.”
- “I declared quite matter-of-factly that I was not calling any witness at all, at which point I abruptly closed my case.”
- “He can do no other than to oppose the law and suffer the consequences. Nor can I.”
- “History shows that penalties do not deter men when their conscience is aroused.”
- “Prison not only robs you of your freedom, it attempts to take away your identity.”
- “I was prepared for the death penalty. To be truly prepared for something, one must actually expect it. One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.”
- “The racial divide on Robben Island was absolute: there were no black warders, and no white prisoners.”
- “The challenge for every prisoner, particularly every political prisoner, is how to survive prison intact, how to emerge from prison undiminished, how to conserve and even replenish one’s beliefs.”
- “It was tremendously frustrating not to be able to touch my wife, to speak tenderly to her, to have a private moment together. We had to conduct our relationship at a distance under the eyes of people we despised.”
- “For us such struggles – for sunglasses, long trousers, study privileges, equalized food – were corollaries to the struggle we waged outside the prison. The campaign to improve the conditions in prison was part of the apartheid struggle. It was, in that sense, all the same; we fought injustice wherever we found it, no matter how large, or how small, and we fought injustice to preserve our humanity.”
- “In solitary, there is no distraction from these haunting questions.”
- his mother and his oldest son died, and his wife was in jail, during a quick period of time in prison
- “It was a useful reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and that if their heart is touched, they are capable of changing. Ultimately, Badenhurst was not evil; his inhumanity had been foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behavior.”
- “ Robben Island was known as the University because of what we learned from each other. We became our own faculty, with our own professors, our own curriculum, our own courses.”
- “I knew immediately what I would do: prepare a countersuit charging everyone from the lieutenant all the way up to the minister of justice with misconduct. I would indict the whole prison system as a whole as a racist institution that sought to perpetuate white supremacy. I would make the case a cause celebre, and make them regret they had ever charged me in the first place.”
- “I would write most of the night and sleep during the day.”
                        à how he wrote this book
- “It was a revolutionary question: What for? The major also seemed taken aback, but managed a reply. “It is against regulations,” he said. The young prisoner responded, “Why do you have this regulation? What is the purpose of it?” This questioning on the part of the prisoner was too much for the major, and he stomped out of the room…”
- “One book that I returned to many times was Tolstoy’s great work, War and Peace.”
- Cleopatra was black
- “Prison is a still point in a turning world, and it is very easy to remain in the same place in jail while the world moves on.”
- “It is a humiliating experience to watch the fear and disgust on ordinary citizens’ faces when they watch a convict go by.”
- “It was as it I were still dreaming. I held her to me for what seemed like an eternity. We are still and silent except for the sound of our hearts. I did not want to let go of her at all, but I broke free and embraced my daughter and then took her child in my lap. It had been twenty-one years since I had even touched my wife’s hand.”
- “Even thought I was not a drinker, I wanted to e a proper host and serve wine to my guests. I would occasionally take a sip of wine in order to make my guests feel comfortable…”
- “I rehearsed the arguments that the state president might make and the ones I would put in return.”
- [The SA President de Kierk] “announced that the National Security Management system, a secret structure set up under PW Botha [former Prez] to combat anti-apartheid forces, would be dissolved.” Nov, 1989
- “On February 2, 1990, F.W. de Klerk stood before Parliament to make the traditional opening speech and did something no other South African head of state had ever done: he truly began to dismantle the apartheid system and lay the groundwork for a democratic South Africa.”
- “It was a breathtaking moment, for in one sweeping action he had virtually normalized the situation in South Africa . Our world had changed overnight.”
- “As I finally walked through those gates to enter a car on the other side, I felt – even at the age of seventy-one – that my life was beginning anew. My ten thousand days of imprisonment were over.”
            [Figurative ~ 27 ½ yrs – Feb 11, 1990]
- “I wanted not only to live among my people, but like them.”
- “The People’s Forums were similar to the town meetings that candidate Bill Clinton held in America on his way to the presidency.”
- “I marked an X in the box next to the letters ANC and then slipped my folded ballot into a simple wooden box; I had cast the first vote of my life.”
- “Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”
- “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.”
- “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skim, or his background, or his religion.”
- “It was as simple and yet as incomprehensible as the moment a small child asks of her father, “Why can you not be with us?” And the father must utter the terrible words: “There are other children like you, a great many of them…” and then one’s voice trails off.”
- “It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I knew as well as I know anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of predjudice and narrow-mindedness.”

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