Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Rivonia Speech, the rousing address from the dock of South Africa in1964. Mandela stared death right in the face and gave the speech of his life. Fifty years ago yesterday, aware that he could be hanged for treason, the leader of South Africans’ struggle against racial apartheid responded with one of the most amazing speeches of the 20th century.
Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders were charged with acts of treason and trying to overthrow the apartheid government of South Africa. Most of the accused were convicted including Mandela. He read out a lengthy speech in which he expressed his undying support to the ANC and its fight for liberation. He infamously declared that he had ‘fought against white domination, and fought against black domination’, that an equal society was an ideal for which he was prepared to die.
During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people, I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.
I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.
But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
Nelson Mandela was considered a master storyteller, whether around a table or at a podium in front of hundreds of thousands, he could engage and capture the attention of all who listened. Raised to be the next chief of his tribe, he decided to rebel and go to college. After attaining his law degree he joined the ANC (African National Congress Party). He was accused of sabotage and other things due to a labor strike he coordinated. As a result, he served 27 years of a life sentence in jail. While he was imprisoned, he could no longer see his family or work in the African Liberation Movement. Before his imprisonment, he was an impassioned speaker and leader in the movement to stop racial separation in South Africa. Upon his release in 1990, he became the symbol for the Anti-Apartheid Movement, eventually being elected president of South Africa four years after leaving prison.
Read the full text of the Nelson Mandela Rivonia Speech. And read more Gingery goodness about Mandela here.