On Feb. 2, 1990, South African President F.W. de Klerk announced he would release imprisoned political leader Nelson Mandela and lifted the country’s ban on membership in the African National Congress, the political party that pushed for equal rights for Blacks under the racially oppressive apartheid government.
Mandela, the leader of the ANC, spent 27 years behind bars after being convicted of sabotage and sentenced to life in prison. De Klerk worked with Mandela to transition the country from apartheid rule to the majority rule it enjoys today. Both he and Mandela were awarded the 1993 Nobel Prize for Peace for their efforts.
In 1994, Mandela won the presidency in South Africa’s first all-inclusive elections. In 1999, at 80 years old, he opted out of another run for presidency to retire from public life.
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(Photo: TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)