Long Walk to Freedom is Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, published in 1994. It details his life and the struggle for freedom of the South African people. This excerpt revolves around Mandela’s desire for freedom from racism, as democracy was established in his country. The South Africans faced racism and hate during the apartheid period, which upheld segregationist policies. The all-white government sanctioned the political and economic discrimination against the non-white population of South Africa. It forced black South Africans into poverty, loss, and lack of protection of their basic dignity. This article provides the summary and analysis of an excerpt from Long Walk to Freedom and not the entire book.
Long Walk To Freedom | Summary And Analysis
10 May 1994 is the day that Nelson Mandela, after years of struggle, was inaugurated as the Head of State, a position that had been historically occupied only by white Presidents. The day was bright and clear, and it dawned anew that the world was changing, and South Africa was no longer under the control of racists and oppressors.
He had the pleasure of meeting several dignitaries and well-known leaders, and they were respectful of him. In the memory of the racism of his predecessors, a dark-skinned man garnering such respect would be a new ideal to live up to, and a new standard set by his democratic government. His swearing-in ceremony would be the gathering with the most attendance that had ever taken place in South Africa.
White supremacy is the belief that white people are the superior race and should dominate all others. White supremacists are those who wholly support this and see themselves as better than the “lesser than” races.
This ceremony took place in the location that had been the place of power for white supremacists, which had now transformed into a place of acceptance, diversity, and equality. The rainbow gathering shows that nobody was cut off from this gathering, and everyone was equal in the eyes of Mandela. This was the day that the first government that was actively against racism was established in South Africa, with the world watching as South Africa began its life anew.
Mandela was with his daughter, Zenani. The two deputy presidents were sworn in first, followed by Mandela’s pledge to commit himself to the welfare and needs of the people and to respect and uphold their constitution. He was committed to bringing a drastic change to the lives of the South Africans, and, in the book, added a quote from the speech he made to the world and its leaders.
He says that the gathering of people for this historic inauguration brings hope and glory to freedom that is borne from human disaster. This lack of human dignity was drawn out for too long, and it must be a stepping stone for a society that benefits all of humanity and brings pride to everyone. A large population of South Africa were outlaws, people who were not protected by the law and discriminated against. These people are the ones who host the international gathering that witnesses the justice and dignity that is finally fulfilled in South Africa. The people have gained their freedom and will continue to protect and expand their freedom. They will remove inequality, poverty, suffering, and discrimination from the minds and hearts of the population. Oppression shall never again be upheld within their land, and the sun will shine brightly on the achievements that are to follow. And now, freedom has won over segregation, freedom has won over the oppression of the past.
“The sun will never set” means that this will never come to an end. The victory of the population over the policies of apartheid, and the non-racist policies and decisions are extraordinary achievements that should never end. The sun will not set on this as equality is evergreen, and no longer up for debate.
When one is free from the oppressive restrictions that have been imposed by some authority that infringes on one’s behavior, thought, or way of living, that is liberty. Freedom from oppression is the liberty that the South African people are finally able to enjoy.
Emancipation is being set free from legal restrictions. The people of South Africa enjoy political emancipation, that is, they were set free from the racist policies of the government that dehumanized and disenfranchised them.
This was followed by an expression of celebration and respect, of the people’s loyalty toward fairness and democracy. The jets and helicopters of the military flew in perfect formation, and the leaders of the military saluted their newly elected President. This was in direct contrast to what would have been expected of them in years past, and this expression of respect solidified that day as a turning point in the history of South Africa. The military that enforced the regulations of the Apartheid government is now the military that pledged its loyalty to the first black President of South Africa. This exhibition ended with a smoke trail of the new flag of South Africa left in the sky for all to see.
This day was symbolic of a new life, and an acceptance of diversity and duality. There was no longer a majority versus a minority, but instead, there was a Republic that upheld equality. This was further symbolized for Mandela when the new national anthem and the old national anthem were sung, a combination of “Nkosi Sikelel-iAfrika”, whose lyrics the white people did not know well, and “Die Stem van Suid Afrika”, whose lyrics the black people did not know. These groups despised these anthems at one time, but this duality was accepted and built into a hybrid anthem, accepted by all.
This day was full of historical significance, and this filled the mind of Nelson Mandela. Decades earlier, a structure of discrimination was built by those who saw themselves as superior to the dark-skinned people they shared their country with. This created one of the worst societies known to man and upheld the lack of human dignity, respect, and basic rights. The racist policies meant that the black population would never be protected, and many died at the hands of the whites. In total contrast, on the day of Mandela’s swearing-in, that system has been left behind and substituted with one that did not depend on someone’s skin colour to know they are deserving of human rights and dignity.
Mandela recognized the sacrifices that many had undertaken to allow South Africa to have reached such a situation of acceptance, and he saw his position as simply a sum of the people who had given up their lives to allow him to stand there that day. Their sacrifices and suffering were vast, and they would never get the opportunity to see how it paid off. His love for his country and his respect for his people is clear, and he has no delusion about how he got where he is. He respects those who passed on before him and recognizes the pain that they underwent in the struggle for freedom.
The racist policies that were part of South Africa’s governance for several years will leave pain and generational hurt that will take years to fully move on from. This oppression, however, also was the motivator for many freedom fighters and dissidents to come to the fore and be icons of strength and commitment. The strength of their character was revealed by the terrible oppression they were forced to face, and these people are the true wealth of the country, not the resources or the precious jewels.
Oliver Tambo was a politician and revolutionary who was the President of the ANC from 1967-1991. Walter Sisulu was an anti-apartheid activist and was a part of the ANC as well. Chief Albert Luthuli was a tribal chief who was a politician, teacher, activist, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960. Yusuf Dadoo was an anti-apartheid activist and South African communist. He was the key player in the cooperation between the ANC and the South African Communist Party and the South African Indian Congress. Abraham (Bram) Fischer was a South African lawyer who defended anti-apartheid activists and was an activist himself. He was the legal defence of Nelson Mandela at one point, and he was later put on trial for supporting communism. Robert Sobukwe was a South African teacher and dissident, founder of the Pan Africanist Congress to oppose the apartheid system at that time.
These people showed Mandela what it meant to be courageous, resilient, and strong. They did not back down in the face of adversity and willingly sacrificed themselves for the freedom of the future. “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it”. Being courageous does not mean that one is not afraid. Being courageous means to stand for what one believes in despite being afraid. There is no courage if there is no fear to overcome. The mastery of fear and the triumph over it is the true sign of courage and strength.
Mandela also mentions that racism is a taught prejudice. No child automatically hates another just for looking different, they are taught what to love and what to hate, and they are taught to discriminate. The humanity of man is seen in their capacity for love, and this capacity is what motivated Mandela even through his terrible time in prison. The guards who kept him there expressed flashes of pity or humanity, and this was enough to remind Mandela what he was fighting for, and who he was fighting for.
He compares the goodness of men to an everlasting flame. The goodness that resides in humanity can never be taken away, though it can be forced into hiding. It is represented by a flame that can be covered, but never put out. The goodness of man is the flame that will never truly be extinguished and motivates everyone who sees it to keep on fighting for what they believe in.
He then moves on to talk about the duality of obligations that everyone has in their lives, to family, and to country. Every free man is able to fulfil this, but a black man in South Africa could not. They were isolated, pushed into poverty, ripped away from the lives they lived, and punished. They were not allowed to be people, as their rebellion was a political obligation that removed them from being able to fulfil their familial obligations. He found himself unable to be the son, father, and husband he really wanted to be whilst being a servant to the people he was trying to make free.
As a child, he had no thoughts about freedom. He was free. Yet as he grew, his freedom was chipped away, and he discovered that he was never really free at all. This made him desire freedom, freedom to be himself and go wherever he wanted, which evolved into a desire to have the freedom of being able to fulfil his potential, and of just living a normal life. He wanted the freedom to be a person, to live a life under the law, and to build a family without disturbance.
This further evolved, as Mandela discovered that it was not limited to himself, but all the people who were like him. The desire for individual freedom transformed into the desire for communal freedom, and the ANC supported this. He was passionate about bringing his people the basic dignity of human life and drove him to transform himself into whatever he may need to be to accomplish this. He found that he could not partake in the little freedoms he was privileged to have when he knew that many others were worse off than him.
“Freedom is indivisible,” says Mandela. It cannot exist for some and not exist for others. The oppression of his people was his own oppression, and the freedom of his people was his own freedom. Nobody is free of the chains until everyone is free. Hatred and prejudice push a man to take away another’s freedom, and assert dominance over them, and the one who oppresses lacks freedom just as the one who is oppressed. There is no humanity till all are equal, and those who dominate are shackled as much as those who are dominated.