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Last updated:18 June 2015

Nelson Mandela's release from prison

On 11 February 1990 Nelson Mandela was released from jail following 27 years of imprisonment (as leader of the African National Congress (ANC)'s armed wing, he had co-ordinated sabotage campaigns against military and government targets). His release was broadcast live all over the world. An international campaign for his release had begun in 1980, culminating in ever-tightening economic sanctions against South Africa. This was a truly international campaign which saw the involvement of people across the globe.

His release followed a relaxation of apartheid laws, including a lifting of the ban on the ANC by South African President FW de Klerk.

On his release Mandela acknowledged that de Klerk was a man of integrity but made clear that the ANC's struggle was not over, saying ‘our struggle has reached a decisive moment. Our march to freedom is now irreversible'. In the country's first multi-racial elections Mandela was elected President and the ANC gained 252 of the 400 seats in the national assembly. In 1993 Mandela and de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to transform South African society.

Nelson Mandela died on 5 December 2013, at the age of 95.

Although our collection focuses on the UK and Ireland, the Library does also hold a great deal of material relating to campaigns of international solidarity and support - find out more here.