Nelson Mandela
(1918 — 2013)

[Though Nelson Mandela did not personally participate in the Southern Freedom Movement, he inspired a generation of anti-racist, anti-colonial, and anti-apartheid activists around the world. Those of us on the front lines of the struggle here in America were intensely aware of, and deeply affected by, the movement Mandela led in South Africa. In his controversial speech to the March on Washington SNCC Chairman John Lewis acknowledged that direct link when he told 250,000 marchers: "One man, one vote is the African cry. It is ours too. It must be ours." We consider it an honor to add the name Nelson Mandela to our In Memory list.]


As remembered by Bob Zellner
December 6, 2013


What did you do during the 27 years Nelson Mandela was in prison between 1962 and his release in 1990?

I will be 75 years old next April and Nelson Mandela was 95 when he died this past Thursday. There are two people in my life who remind me strongly of our hero, Mandela. One is James Forman of SNCC, an architect of the modern civil rights movement. The other is Dr. William Barber, the architect of the current upsurge of southern grassroots organizing.

Forman and Barber look and sound at times just like Mandela. This is fitting because of the synergy existing between our freedom movement in the South and the freedom movement in Africa, especially South Africa. Apartheid was based on what the Boers and Afrikaans learned from the segregationist South and Jim Crow.

I remember in the early days of SNCC being inspired by African liberation struggles and was not entirely awake that they in turn were energized by what we were doing in the US. Many of us can be rightly proud of what we did while Nelson Mandela was in prison, but as Ms Baker said, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. "

What is happening even as we speak in NC proves once again the truth of another song we sang, "Freedom is a constant struggle." After Reconstruction the freed women and men and their abolitionist allies no doubt thought our country could never go back to the all white ballot box. By the end of that century the all white ballot box was firmly reestablished. Likewise following the freedom struggle during the middle of the last century, we thought we could be secure in the thought that voting rights and women's rights would never again be threatened. Wrong, once again! The ultra right wing is using NC as a test tube perfecting the poison they've prepared for us all.

Dr. King, another one who reminds me of the giant, Mandela, famously said we would reach the promise land. Maybe what he meant is that the journey to freedom itself is the Promised Land. I believe the journey is the Promised Land and sure nuff, freedom is a constant struggle. Rise up!

Bob Zellner


As remembered by Mario Marcel Salas
December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela inspired many of us in Texas, and in particular, San Antonio, Texas. We protested against the Kruggerand coin, picketed investment firms that had financial dealings with the apartheid regime, and had Shuping Coapage, a representative of ANC, speak at a Steven Biko memorial program in 1978. Mandela inspired my activities as a civil rights leader and as a city councilman in 2001 when I spearheaded a City of San Antonio economic development project to make Mafikeng, South Africa a Sister City with San Antonio. Over many years, as a member of SNCC, Mandela's determination helped to keep me going in our struggle against racism in the US. We salute Nelson Mandela...Amandla!

Mario Marcel Salas


As remembered by Dr. Gwendolyn M. Patton
December 11, 2013

The iconic photo of the little Black boy looking through a chain fence with the sign reading "Whites Only" was not in USA-South, but in South Africa. This photo became a standard bearer for those of us in the Freedom Movement. When Montgomery staged its victorious boycott in 1955, Johannesburg staged its successful bus boycott against fare hikes in 1957, making it clear that they drew strength from Montgomery and its Direct Action Movement. Our SNCC slogan, "One Man, One Vote," was first uttered in 1962 by Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress. The call for the Black people to their right to self-determination in Lowndes County, Alabama was inspired by the ANC. In SNCC, especially after 1966, we memorialized those who were murdered in the Sharpville Massacre, 1960. African Liberation Day began in the mid-late 1960s in the USA and continues to this day as a celebration to love our African Diaspora. We learned much from the African Liberation Struggles throughout the African Continent. And, the Struggle Continues...A Luta Continus. Gwen Patton

Gwen Patton

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