Long Walk to Freedom is the autobiography of Nelson Mandela whose name is written next to the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln in the books of history. While Gandhi tussled for his country’s freedom, Lincoln championed the rights of the blacks, and Mandela fought for both.
Mandela’s autobiography was published in 1995, one year after South Africa held its first democratic elections that saw Mandela become the first black president. The memoir begins with his birth in Mvezo, a tiny village in the district of Umtata, and concludes with the liberation of millions of blacks from the British. In between, lies Mandela’s walk to freedom.
In the first few chapters, Mandela speaks of his childhood spent herding cattle, fighting with friends, playing games like naize (hide and seek), and following the conservative customs of the Xhosa tribe that he belonged to. For instance, Xhosa boys were taught to follow the footsteps of their fathers and girls of their mothers.
Further in the book, he mentions his father Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa Mandela, who played a pivotal role in getting him educated. Though he was illiterate, he decided to send his young son to a schoolhouse. When Gadla is first introduced in the autobiography, he comes across as a man who is emotionally distant from his family. But as the story progresses, this assumption is soon proven to be wrong. As a child growing up in a tribal hamlet, Mandela had a blanket for a uniform, wrapped around his shoulders that stretched up to his knees. But Gadla wanted his son to be suitably dressed for school. So, he alters one of his trousers and gives it to Mandela. Here, Mandela reveals how one of his teachers gave him his first name Nelson, to make his African name sound easier for the whites to pronounce.