By Emily Riehl
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His brave, lifelong struggle for equality in South Africa — and peace and fairness around the world — has made him a hero and an inspiration to people everywhere. There have been hit songs and Hollywood movies about Mandela and an endless stream of paintings, poems, and books. For decades, people anywhere who are striving for freedom have looked to the life of Nelson Mandela for motivation. Mandela’s story cannot be told without understanding the word apartheid (a-PAR-tight). Apartheid was a system of racial segregation.
During this time, Mandela and Tambo opened Africa’s first black law firm, in downtown Johannesburg. The building was owned by Indians and was one of the only places in town where blacks could rent an office. For little or no charge, Mandela and Tambo helped many people who were arrested for violating apartheid laws. People throughout Africa learned about the ANC during the Defiance Campaign, and the ANC’s membership grew from seven thousand members to about one hundred thousand. Despite the ANC’s protests, the apartheid policy continued to grow.
The “volunteers” purposely ignored passbook laws, curfews, and other rules. More than eight thousand five hundred of the volunteers were arrested, including Mandela himself. He received a six-month “banning order,” meaning he was not allowed to attend ANC meetings or leave the Johannesburg area. During this time, Mandela and Tambo opened Africa’s first black law firm, in downtown Johannesburg. The building was owned by Indians and was one of the only places in town where blacks could rent an office.