Mandela’s ‘Long Walk’ comes to an end

Nelson Mandela’s long walk through history has concluded.

The former South African president died Thursday at age 95. To say he was a “transformational figure” in his country’s history — indeed, the world’s history — would be to commit an act of overt understatement.

PBS’s Frontline series has put an extraordinary program online. It is the “Long Walk of Nelson Mandela,” which the network broadcast the first time in 1999, a mere nine years after Mandela walked out of his 27-year imprisonment.

The program reveals a side of Mandela few people have seen. We know Mandela as a man of courage, principle, compassion and grace. He was a young activist, a rabble-rouser who inflamed passions within South Africa.

His target? Apartheid, the policy oppression that denied the vast majority of South African residents the basic rights of citizenship.

Mandela fought his government openly and passionately. Finally, in 1964, his government declared it had enough. It imprisoned him on Robben Island.

But he came out of that prison the ultimate victor in his campaign to end apartheid. The policy would die eventually and in 1994, South Africans voted in the first democratic election in their country’s history. They elected Mandela their president.

Frontline has posted the program online for the first time. It is nearly two hours long. But it is worth every moment to watch it.

It tells a gripping story of one of history’s true giants.


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