‘Mandela: The Official Exhibition’ is now open at The Henry Ford Museum

"Mandela: The Official Exhibition" sign at The Henry Ford (Gloria Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

Dearborn, Mich. — A new special exhibit entitled “Mandela: The Official Exhibition” is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI from October 21, 2023 to January 15, 2024.

Rolihlahla Mandela was born in a small village of Mvezo in the Eastern Cape of South Africa on July 18, 1918.  On his first day of school in Qunu at age seven, his teacher gave him the Christian name of Nelson.  He encountered very few white people in his daily life.  He was led to believe white people were “Superhuman.”  He thought they were ‘superior’ and in time, would question this.

Mandela went to Fort Hare University and was expelled after participating in a student demonstration.  He studied law in college, then worked as a lawyer in Johannesburg.  There he became involved in African nationalist politics.  The “Nats” as they were called, swept to power in 1948 and called their policy apartheid.  Apartheid means “Separateness.”  Under apartheid, public buildings had separate entrances and exits for black and white citizens.

Under the apartheid movement, white areas were controlled.  Being caught without the correct paperwork meant arrest and jail. Mandela was repeatedly arrested for his rebellious activities and was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the 1956 Treason trial.  He secretly joined the banned South African Communist Party and led a sabotage campaign against the government.  He was arrested and imprisoned in 1962 and was sentenced to life in prison for conspiring to overthrow the state.

Life in prison was a struggle.  Being black, he was restricted to certain rules.  But with great discipline, he began a campaign to improve conditions.   Prison authorities began to listen.  Prison robbed him of his family, career and best years of his life.  Mandela spent 27 years in prison.  Amid growing pressure, domestic and internationally, President F.W. de Kierk released him in 1990.  After that, Mandela and de Kierk led efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid.  Mandela and President de Kierk were  co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to achieve democracy.

In 1994, a multiracial general election voted Mandela to be President.  It was a moment, many thought they would not live to see.  He served only one term.  Upon retirement, he continued to work for peace and humanitarian causes.  At age 85, his age was catching up with him and his health was declining in his final years.  On December 5, 2013, he passed away at the age of 95.

He is held with deep respect within South Africa where he is described as the “Father of the Nation.”  His fight for injustice is inspiring.  His leadership skills began when he was a young boy and was carried throughout his life.  He is known around the world for his commitment to peace, negotiation and reconciliation.  The exhibit is deeply moving and you feel inspired as you walk through it.

The Henry Ford Museum is located at 20900 Oakwood Blvd, Dearborn, Michigan.  The hours are 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. seven days a week.  This is a free exhibit for members and his located in the General Motors Gallery.

For tickets and more information about “Mandela: The Official Exhibition,” visit: https://www.thehenryford.org/current-events/calendar/mandela-the-official-exhibition/

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