Each day at the Stowe Center, we are inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe and how her outrage of the injustice of her day, slavery, evolved from her indignation to a personal call to the action. The action of writing the antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin is what changed the hearts and minds of many Americans; the impact of that action helping millions to see the inhumanity of the institution of slavery for the first time. Her words changed the world.
In like manner, as we owe this gratitude to Stowe, we say “Thank you, Nelson Mandela.” Your words and actions changed the world. Your perseverance and prevailing vision for a free, peaceful and just South Africa inspired the world. The urgent question as we remember your life, and mourn your death, is will the inspiration of your legacy become our inspiration to action?
Time Magazine journalist Robert Stengel, who knew Nelson Mandela, shared these words giving insight in those moments became Mr. Mandela’s call to action.
“I always thought that in a free and nonracial South Africa, Mandela would have been a small-town lawyer, content to be a local grandee. This great, historic revolutionary was in many ways a natural conservative. He did not believe in change for change’s sake. But one thing turned him into a revolutionary, and that was the pernicious system of racial oppression he experienced as a young man in Johannesburg. When people spat on him in buses, when shopkeepers turned him away, when whites treated him as if he could not read or write-- that changed him irrevocably. For deep in his bones was a basic sense of fairness: he simply could not abide injustice. If he, Nelson Mandela, the son of a chief, tall, handsome and educated, could be treated as subhuman, then what about the millions who had nothing like his advantages? “That is not right,” he would sometimes say to me about something as mundane as a plane flight’s being canceled or as large as a world leader’s policies, but that simple phrase — that is not right — underlay everything he did, everything he sacrificed for and everything he accomplished.”
To learn more about Nelson Mandela, his actions and legacy, we recommend:
- Nelson Mandela Foundation: Living the Legacy
- "Mandela Lives" by Nicholas D. Kristof in New York Times
- "Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Liberator as Prisoner and President, Dies at 95" in New York Times
- "Nelson Mandela Dead at 95" in TIME
- "The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela" by Frontline/PBS