A Summary on the Book "Nelson Mandela: The Man and the Movement" by Mary Benson

by Bonnie Wood
This biography chronicles Mandela's influence on South Africa.

This biography chronicles Mandela's influence on South Africa.

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Mary Benson's biography of Nelson Mandela, "Nelson Mandela: The Man and the Movement," is a detailed look at the revolutionary's life, politics, influence and relationships. Through this book, we see Nelson Mandela as one of the most significant figures in the 20th century, for his policies regarding apartheid have greatly shaped not only his home country of South Africa, but Africa as a whole.

Early Life

Benson describes Mandela's early life as being rich with African tribal roots. His father was a chief of a village, part of the Thembu tribe. Mandela grew up under the oppression of apartheid, but his time seeing tribal law as a young man taught him a lot about the importance of leadership and government. However, he did rebel against some of the tribal customs, such as an arranged marriage, as he sought out his own way in his education and his politics.

African National Congress

In 1942, Mandela received his law degree from the University of South Africa. Two years later, he joined the African National Congress (ANC), which is a South African political party. Though Mandela was one of its most radical members, the ANC worked for supporting equal rights for blacks in South Africa. Mandela became president of the ANC in 1951 and was jailed in 1952 for protests. From that time on, Mandela viewed non-violent protest as ineffective in changing the policies surrounding apartheid.


Benson chronicles Mandela's revolutionary years during the 1950s and 1960s. In the early 1960s, Mandela was given a life sentence for high treason charges. He spent 27 years in jail and became a national and international symbol of resistance against the evils of apartheid, even in his quiet and patient suffering. Benson also describes how Mandela aided in the freedom of his fellow prisoners by his negotiations with the South African government.

Freedom and Presidency

Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and one year later, he once again became president of the ANC. Because of his work, a democratic government was formed, and in 1994 the first free election was held. Mandela was elected president. Benson's biography ends with Mandela's inauguration, which was a significant and poignant moment for South Africa, Africa in general and, ultimately, the world.

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