Mandela Close, NW10

Place Name

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013) was an anti-apartheid campaigner whose message against the racist system in South Africa – which for nearly 30 years was made from jail – became a powerful global symbol. This was the first known example of a London street being named after him, following Brent’s Labour Council which unveiled it in 1981 – by which time he had spent 17 years on Robben Island prison accused of plotting violent insurrection. “Ethnic heroes are to be commemorated in new street names as a way of reflecting the multi-racial backgrounds of many of Brent’s residents,” wrote local newspaper the Willesden Chronicle. “Mr Mandela gave permission to use his name from the jail on Robben Island where he is being held.” Nine years later Brent became the first council to offer Mandela the freedom of the borough which was strongly opposed by Conservative councillors. Internationally however, there was growing pressure to end the system which oppressed millions of people on the grounds of their colour. There were boycotts of South African goods and services, as well as sporting and cultural events. On top of this there were growing fears within the white leadership of racial civil war. In 1990 President F W de Klerk released Mandela in what became known as the Long Walk to Freedom. A lawyer by training, Mandela would go on to become South Africa’s first black president, after the African National Congress (ANC) swept to power ending decades of centrally imposed Apartheid and the disenfranchisement of the majority of the people. His enduring fight became a totem for many Labour councils to express their contempt for white minority rule and oppression everywhere. Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize.

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