As President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela improved the living standards and facilities of South Africa’s black population, who had suffered for decades under apartheid.
He also worked hard to make South Africa a country of equality, where people of all race and colour lived together in peace.
And so in 1944 he joined the African National Congress (ANC) – a political group that strived for equal rights for whites and blacks.
In 1948 the South African government introduced a system called ‘apartheid’, which furthered racial divide in the country even more.
Nelson Mandela became an important figure in the ANC, helping set up and lead a section for young people called the ANC Youth League.
He later travelled the country to gain support for non-violent protests against the National Party’s racists laws.
Nelson studied hard at school and later attended the University of Fort Hare, the South African Native College.
He then moved to the city of Johannesburg to study law at the University of the Witwatersrand, before qualifying as a lawyer in 1942, aged 24.
After 18 years there, he was transferred to Victor Verster Prison near a town called Paarl.
During his time behind bars, Nelson Mandela didn’t give up on what he believed in.