A Long Walk To Freedom: From Apartheid To Equality Book Review Examples

Published: 2021-06-18 05:27:29
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Written and published after his release in 1990, Nelson Mandela’s A Long Walk to Freedom gives precious insight into the life of the heroic South African president. Though his long-standing devotion to the fight against racial oppression won him both the Noble Peace Prize and the position as president of his country, the book reveals the less agreeable aspects of his life choice as political and moral leader. A Long Walk to Freedom provides not only an intimately reflective account of Mandela’s life, but also unmasks the grander story of the efforts of South Africans of color to free themselves from their history of oppression.
In the early part of his book, Mandela writes: “The year of my birth marked the end of the Great War; the outbreak of an influenza epidemic that killed millions throughout the world; and the visit of a delegation of the African National Congress to the Versailles peace conference to voice the grievances of the African people of South Africa.” It seems the political implications of his path to freedom were already a part of his destiny when he was born. It was at school when he first realized that the freedom he believed he had been born with was, in truth, a giant façade. As a young boy, he became aware of apartheid— one of the most preeminent and effective systems of oppression ever conceived. The reality was that all nonwhite South Africans were kept out of politics and denied constitutional rights. Mandela later joined the African National Congress in 1944, within which he would eventually assume presidency. Alongside Walter Sisulu and Oliver Tambo, Mandela began to challenge the former leaders of the African National Congress. The passive nature of their efforts led Mandela and his peers to arrange strikes and publicly assail the ideology of apartheid held by the National Party. Later in a speech at the ANC annual conference, Professor Z. K. Matthews said, “I wonder whether the time has not come for the African National Congress to consider the question of convening a national convention, a congress of the people, representing all the people of this country irrespective of race or color, to draw up a Freedom Charter for the democratic South Africa of the future.” Matthews’ proposal was eagerly accepted. The Congress of the People was created, which set forth a set to create the foundation for a new nation. The people themselves would be responsible for making suggestions for the new constitution, and ANC leaders were encouraged to seek out the advice and opinions of everyone around them. The 1955 Freedom Charter was thus born of the people, asserting non-racialism, liberty, and individual rights.
During the Treason Trial, several stipulations were agreed upon regarding the ANC: 1) it was working to replace the government with a radically and fundamentally different form of state; 2) it used illegal means of protest during the Defiance Campaign; 3) certain leaders had advocated violence; and 4) there was a strong left-wing tendency that was revealed in its anti-imperialist, anti-West, and pro-Soviet attitudes. In spite of all this, the court still came to the conclusion that the ANC had not “acquired or adopted a policy to overthrow the state by violence, that is, in the sense that the masses had to be prepared or conditioned to commit direct acts of violence against the state.” Neither the organization’s actions nor the Freedom Charter offered enough evidence of a desire to implement a Communist state. After more than four years in court, the state had failed in its mission to overturn the ANC. To illustrate the deeply embedded ideology behind oppression and apartheid, the state did not offer an ounce of remorse or compassion towards the organization, but rather saw the failure as an impetus to be “far more ruthless.” Mandela still recognizes however, the three judges who “rose above their prejudices, their education, and their background.” He then writes: “There is a streak of goodness in men that can be buried or hidden and then emerge unexpectedly.”
Mandela describes how as a student, he was taught that his country was a place where the law protected every persons’ rights. “I sincerely believed this and planned my life based on that assumption,” he writes. “But my career as a lawyer and activist removed the scales from my eyes.” This newfound awareness would become an indefatigable pursuit that did not diminish even with the knowledge that it would cost him a great deal personally. “For myself, I have never regretted my commitment to the struggle, and I was always prepared to face the hardships that affected me personally,” Mandela explains. “But my family paid a terrible price, perhaps too dear a price for my commitment.” The fact that Mandela sacrificed relationships with the most beloved people in his life for the sake of millions in his country reminds the reader that the choice Mandela made was not one that just anyone could commit to. Mandela joined the ANC when his hunger for freedom enlarged into a hunger for the freedom of his people. He desired that the people of his nation be able to lead their lives with dignity and self-respect. He felt the oneness of him and his people, rather than any separation via the physical forms of their bodies. “Freedom is indivisible,” Mandela writes. “The chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.” This intrinsic compassion that he could not ignore is what spurred his incredible political actions, even to the extent that it would cost him his personal life. It seems that without this inner passion, one would not be able to sustain him or herself in the long, arduous road to the realization of their dreams. This is one of the gifts of the autobiography: we see the true path that one must take in order to materialize their goals, as well as the sacrifices that inevitably must be made.
Mandela writes about the day of the inauguration, and how he felt inundated by a sense of history. He looks back at how far his nation has come, when he writes: “In the first decade of the twentieth century, [] the white-skinned peoples of South Africa patched up their differences and erected a system of racial domination against the dark-skinned peoples of their own land. The structure they created formed the basis of one of the harshest, most inhumane societies the world has ever known.” The profoundly harsh policy of apartheid would not be easily forgotten, leaving lasting implications for Mandela and his people. He then continues: “Now, in the last decade of the twentieth century, and my own eighth decade as a man, that system had been overturned forever and replaced by one that recognized the rights and freedoms of all peoples regardless of the color of their skin.” This marvelous overturn of political rejection into acceptance is matched only by the spiritual evolvement that occurred within the people who were a part of the long-lasting struggle. Mandela remarks on the awe-inspiring phenomenon of people risking and giving their lives for a single cause, at times “showing a strength and resiliency that defies the imagination.” He reminds us that he is still human and far from impenetrable, writing that “I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness.” Even in the face of fear, Mandela never lost sight of the end.
The inspiring accounts in A Long Walk to Freedom serve as admonitions for the everyday person who feels he cannot offer anything of lasting value to the world. Perhaps rather than focus on the grandiosity of one’s dreams, he or she should focus on charging that cause with selfless passion and determination. Mandela was monumentally instrumental in moving South Africa towards a multiracial government that supported a majority rule and honored the rights of every person regardless of race or social status. Mandela’s lasting legacy is proof that if one gives away his life in pursuit of a worthy cause, he actually gains life and secures his immortality.
Works Cited
Mandela, Nelson. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994. Print.

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