Freedom Fighters

Nelson Mandela was a visionary freedom fighter who brought about the end of an apartheid society and solidified the democratic elections of presidents by majority rule to South Africa. Born in 1918, Mandela’s early introduction to leadership in the Thembu tribe molded his democratic beliefs (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009). His youth found him exposed to Western culture which ultimately led him to abandon the Thembu culture and relocate to Johannesburg (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009). It was during his early years in Johannesburg that he explored the many political philosophies that surrounded him. It was also during this time that Mandela began thoughtful observation and contemplation of the struggles of the black men and women in South Africa. Mandela came to the conclusion, “It was not lack of ability that limited my people, but lack of opportunity” (Sohail, 2005). His profound dissatisfaction with the apartheid society and the oppression of his people eventually led him to join the African National Congress or ANC in 1944 (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009). In 1948, the Afrikaner dominated National Party established the apartheid customs into law (Sohail, 2005). In response to this the ANC initiated the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws at the urging of Mandela (Sohail, 2005).

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This was the turning point for the ANC and the beginning of Mandela’s rise to recognized leader within the ANC. Prior to this campaign the ANC was committed to peaceful negotiations. With Mandela’s convincing they converted to nonviolent protesting with the goal of overthrowing the white minority government and putting an end to the apartheid laws (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009). These unsuccessful protests were met with violent opposition. It was one such violent encounter that propelled Nelson Mandela and the ANC to adopt violence as a means of protest. In 1960, sixty nine protestors were killed by government police, this act ultimately lead to the development of Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) by Nelson Mandela (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009). The Umkhonto we Sizwe was an offshoot of the ANC whose sole purpose was to engage in violent sabotage of the government. It was Nelson Mandela’s activities within the Umkhonto we Sizwe that ultimately led to his capture and incarceration. His trial and sentencing captivated a world audience and forced the actions of the South African government into an international spotlight.(“Nelson Mandela,” 2009).

Fully expecting the death penalty, Mandela rebutted the idea of seeking appeal recognizing the strength of his position in regard to the cause; “If anything we might serve the cause greater in death as martyrs than we ever could in life” (Sohail, 2005). Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment and solidified his standing as a symbolic embodiment of South African’s fight for freedom (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009). While incarcerated the violence that Mandela birthed continued to escalate over the years. The world continued to pay attention and the United Nations began supporting sanctions against the South African government (Sohail, 2005). Mandela, aware of the violent chaos, began to contemplate a change in strategy. Recognizing that the movement he began was not vast enough to outright overthrow the existing government he began to consider the possibility of negotiations. At the height of the violence and with increasing international pressure the South African government was ready to negotiate as well. The first of many secret meeting took place in 1988 between President Botha and Nelson Mandela (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009).

While these negotiations failed to produce any compromises they set the precedent for Botha’s successor F.W. de Klerk in 1989. President de Klerk was committed to change and meaningful negotiations. With the help of President de Klerk, Mandela established the foundation on which the ANC and the South African Government would negotiate (Sohail, 2005). President de Klerk overturned several of the apartheid laws and ensured Mandela his freedom. Nelson Mandela, to the celebration of millions, was released on February 11, 1990 (Sohail, 2005). After spending 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk mediated the negotiation of the multiparty Convention for a Democratic South Africa (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009). The culmination of these negotiations was the Record of Understanding signed by Mandela and de Klerk in 1992 establishing a “freely elected constitutional assembly” (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009) and the drafting of a new constitution. The first free democratic elections took place on April 27, 1994 (“Nelson Mandela,” 2009), effectively ending the minority white reign and the apartheid laws. For Mandela’s significant contributions and sacrifices to bring about these social and political changes he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993(“Nelson Mandela,” 2009).

Andrew Jackson was a revolutionist and the 7th President of the United States. It was though this pursuit of the United States presidency that he changed the political landscape; changing the way presidents were elected and solidifying presidential power. He further initiated significant change with the displacement of the Native Americans westward. (Red Hill Productions, 2007) Andrew Jackson was born 1767 in South Carolina. Orphaned by the Revolutionary War at the age of 15, he quickly developed a reputation of being “hot tempered and violent” (Red Hill Productions, 2007). Yet at the same time, he maintained a strong work ethic and earned a law degree. He relocated to the frontier lands of Tennessee at the age of 20 to serve as a public prosecutor. It was during this period in his life that he first experienced formal politics. Serving as Tennessee’s first Congressman he quickly became disenchanted with the political scene. Frustrated with ineffective committee meetings and what he saw as far reaching corruption, he returned to Tennessee where he became a superior court judge. (Red Hill Productions, 2007) At the urging of his supporters and amid far reaching popularity, Jackson once again entered politics with a bid for the 1822 presidential race. Andrew Jackson was defeated in 1824 despite winning the popular vote. John Quincy Adams was awarded the presidency at the discretion of the sitting House of Representative (“Andrew Jackson,” 1997).

Empowered by what they saw as a corrupt election process where presidents were decided via the political elite and not the will of the common people, Jackson’s supports organized the first Democratic Party (Red Hill Productions, 2007). United under the Democratic Party the common people led a feverish campaign. This campaign culminated in the electing of Andrew Jackson to the presidency in 1828 (Red Hill Productions, 2007). Recognizing the political power of an organized party the Republican Party was realized later in the decade. Originally dubbed “the National Whig Party” (Red Hill Productions, 2007), the birth of this party laid the foundation for a two party political system that continues to dominate politics today. During Andrew Jackson’s two term presidency he further enacted political change by redefining the role of President within the government. In juxtaposition with the founding fathers, Jackson saw the role of the President as the leader in government rather than the Congress (Red Hill Productions, 2007). Being the only position in government to be elected by the vast majority of the common people, Andrew Jackson envisioned the presidential responsibility as to “serve the good of all people” (Red Hill Productions, 2007).

With this responsibility came great power which Jackson wielded with great efficiency. He invoked his executive power and utilized his veto power vehemently (Red Hill Productions, 2007). With this wide sweeping reform and successful transition of political power to the President, Andrew Jackson is credited with being the first modern President (Red Hill Productions, 2007). While serving as President, Andrew Jackson determined to secure westward expansion of the United States enacted even further political and social change with the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (Red Hill Productions, 2007). Jackson was the catalyst that ultimately concluded with the displacement of the Native Americans east of the Mississippi (Red Hill Productions, 2007). Recognizing the significance of westward expansion for the continued success of the United States, Jackson introduced the Indian Removal Act in a message to Congress in 1830 (Red Hill Productions, 2007). This displacement of the Native Americans would open Native American lands for the white Americans to develop and expand westward. The Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress in 1830 (Red Hill Productions, 2007).

Despite the Supreme Court ruling in favor of the Cherokee people, Andrew Jackson moved forward with the Indian Removal Act forcing a westward movement of the Cherokee people (Red Hill Productions, 2007). This westward movement was famously termed “the Trail of Tears” (Red Hill Productions, 2007). This impacted the Creek and Seminole people as well and effectively solidified the expansion of the white farmers and business entrepreneurs on the land west of the Mississippi for the American people (Red Hill Productions, 2007). Andrew Jackson’s contribution of the establishing of political parties and the expansion of presidential power solidifies his legacy of enacting significant political and social change. These contributions continue to remain the foundation of politics in the United States. His Indian Removal Act was an equally significant example of political and social change that allowed the United States to expand westward. This westward expansion firmly cemented the continued success of the United States.

Andrew Jackson. (1997). In Biography Reference Bank. Retrieved from Nelson Mandela. (2009). In Biography

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