On this day in 1990, leading human rights campaigner Nelson Mandela was freed from Victor Verster Prison in South Africa after a 27-year-long incarceration conducted most famously at Robben Island and also later at Pollsmoor Prison. Mandela had been imprisoned since 1964 as an outspoken opponent of apartheid.
Nine days earlier President F. W. de Klerk - who'd replaced hard-line pro-apartheid president P. W. Botha after he suffered a stroke in September 1989 - lifted a ban on the African National Congress; in an instant de Klerk went from being a life-long conservative to a hero of South Africa's new enlightenment. The negotiation process which eventually took the country from official bigotry to the modern age would eventually earn de Klerk and Mandela the Nobel Peace Prize and, of course, lead to the inauguration of Mandela as South Africa's first black president in May 1994.
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