As Nelson Mandela lived and worked under the unjust system of apartheid, his desire for freedom grew. South Africa separated people by races, oppressing the country’s non-white citizens with abusive laws and cruel restrictions. Every day filled Mandela with grief and anger. But he also had hope—hope for a nation that belonged to everyone who lived in it.
From his work with the African National Congress, to his imprisonment on Robben Island, to his extraordinary rise to the presidency, Nelson Mandela was a rallying force against injustice. This stirring biography explores Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that propelled him through decades of struggle. Illustrated in the bold, bright colors of South Africa, A Plan for the People captures the spirit of a leader beloved around the world.
“Beautiful, informative, essential.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
President Nelson Mandela had white hair, kind eyes, and a wide, warm smile. But many times over his long life he’d had no reason to smile. Many times his eyes had glittered with anger at injustice. Many times he’d come close to giving up hope for change in his country—South Africa.
Nelson Mandela had hope for his own bright future back in his early years.
He had hope while growing up in his Xhosa village—roaming free on the grasslands like Black princes before him. Men who led South Africa before White men arrived.
He had hope while attending the University of Fort Hare, the only college for Blacks in a country governed by Whites. Mandela was hot-headed at times, but hard-working.
He had hope while relishing life in the big city, Johannesburg, where he first made White friends. Mandela started out poor, but kept learning. Soon he worked as a lawyer, sported sharp suits, and drove a fancy American car.
But South Africans with dark skin were ruled by those with white skin. Often Mandela was treated as less than a man—called “boy” by White people. Anger blazed in Nelson Mandela like a grass fire in the African bushveld.
Then new laws caged his people. Blacks required permission to live, work, even visit in White areas. They were squeezed into the poorest parts of the nation. Or pushed into sad, rickety shacks on the edges of cities.
The White government created categories to divide all South Africans by race or color—Black, White, Indian, or “Colored” (people of mixed race). Separation of the races, apartheid, became the heartbreaking law of the land. Even married couples—one Black, one White—could no longer stay together. Separate buses, beaches, even benches. Separate schools—where Black people were trained only to serve Whites.
As a lawyer, Mandela defended dark-skinned South Africans against unjust White laws. He wanted freedom not just for himself, but for
all of his people.
Vowing to strike down the laws of apartheid, Mandela joined the African National Congress. A natural leader, he drew people in—like wildlife to water in the dry Karoo.
The ANC and other groups of Black South Africans demanded changes to the harsh laws. There were many ways to fight for freedom. They marched in the streets after curfew. They boarded Whites-only train cars. They defied the rules and burned the passbooks they were required to carry.
Believing in a nation for all races, some White, Indian, and mixed-race South Africans joined with the ANC in creating a plan, one that Mandela now embraced. One that would make everyone equal citizens, respected and with the right to vote.
In 1955, their Freedom Charter proclaimed: “We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white . . . ”