Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa died Thursday at the age of 95.
The iconic leader survived 27 years in prison during the Apartheid era and went on to become a powerful symbol of a changing continent. His influence extends around the world.
Marquette University Associate Professor of History Chima Korieh says one of Nelson Mandela's greatest achievements was his ability to reconcile the different racial and ethnic make up of South Africa despite difficulties before and and after the end of apartheid.
Korieh says Americans began to learn more about Mandela when the country moved away from its racist past. "Until the end of the end of apartheid, people didn't really appreciate the changes going on in South Africa. That really brought the issue of minority rule to American televisions," he says.
Korieh adds Mandela's achievements will have long lasting effects on the world. "He showed the possibility that human beings, and all society can go beyond issues that are different and embrace nation building while recognizing a multi-racial society."
Milwaukee Alderman Joe Davis, Sr. released a statement on Thursday after he heard the news about Mandela's passing.
As Honorary Consul to the Republic of South Africa from the State of Wisconsin, I am deeply saddened to hear of President Nelson Mandela’s passing today. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, and I send my deepest regrets to the people of South Africa, who today lost their greatest leader.
President Mandela was a man whose convictions were tested beyond the bounds of comprehension, and he emerged from his trials more resolute where lesser men—many men—would have given up hope. He was a shining example to us all, not only as an inspiring beacon of courage, but as a lesson in forgiveness as well. His like will not be seen again for some time, and he will be sorely missed.
Rest in peace, Madiba.
Back in July, Milwaukee marked International Nelson Mandela Day with a celebration at Milwaukee Public Library's Centennial Hall. The event was organized in part by Milwaukee Alderman Joe Davis Sr., the South Africa Honorary Consul for Wisconsin. Lake Effect talked with Alderman Davis and his wife, Magugu, who is a native of South Africa and is with Milwaukee’s Pan-African Community Association.
“One man with one vision changed the world and changed the Republic of South Africa,” says Joe Davis, “by reconciling the differences and playing a role that people truly understood that this country had so much potential to being great.”
President Mandela showed the country and the world that an unbiased African can be president.