Nelson Mandela: Inaugural Address

(1994)

Nelson Mandela's Inaugural Address, delivered on May 10, 1994, was a conciliatory, forward-looking celebration of the changes that had taken place in South Africa. Mandela, who had led the resistance to white rule and who had been imprisoned for that resistance from 1962 to 1990, became the first black man to become South Africa's head of state. His inauguration as president of the Republic of South Africa was a triumphal celebration of the transition from apartheid rule to a democratic South Africa and from white minority rule to black majority rule.

In the 1980s, when white minority rule was still strong and the apartheid policy still tried to separate whites and blacks, few could have predicted that within a decade apartheid legislation would be repealed and all citizens would be able to vote freely for a new head of state. At that time, most commentators predicted that South Africa would descend into a bloody racial civil war. But that racial war did not come to pass....

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Nelson Mandela (National Archives and Records Administration)

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