On This Day, Feb. 11, 1990 – Nelson Mandela Released from Prison
1990 – Nelson Mandela was freed after 27 years in captivity.
In 1944, Mandela, a lawyer, joined the African National Congress (ANC), the oldest black political organization in South Africa, where he became a leader of Johannesburg’s youth wing of the ANC. In 1952, he became deputy national president of the ANC, advocating nonviolent resistance to apartheid–South Africa’s institutionalized system of white supremacy and racial segregation. However, after the massacre of peaceful black demonstrators at Sharpeville in 1960, Nelson helped organize a paramilitary branch of the ANC to engage in guerrilla warfare against the white minority government.
In 1961, he was arrested for treason, and although acquitted he was arrested again in 1962 for illegally leaving the country. Convicted and sentenced to five years at Robben Island Prison, he was put on trial again in 1964 on charges of sabotage. In June 1964, he was convicted along with several other ANC leaders and sentenced to life in prison.
Mandela spent the first 18 of his 27 years in jail at the brutal Robben Island Prison. Confined to a small cell without a bed or plumbing, he was forced to do hard labor in a quarry. He could write and receive a letter once every six months, and once a year he was allowed to meet with a visitor for 30 minutes. However, Mandela’s resolve remained unbroken, and while remaining the symbolic leader of the anti-apartheid movement, he led a movement of civil disobedience at the prison that coerced South African officials into drastically improving conditions on Robben Island. He was later moved to another location, where he lived under house arrest.
In 1989, F.W. de Klerk became South African president and set about dismantling apartheid. De Klerk lifted the ban on the ANC, suspended executions, and in February 1990 ordered the release of Nelson Mandela.
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1808 – Judge Jesse Fell experimented by burning anthracite coal to keep his house warm. He successfully showed how clean the coal burned and how cheaply it could be used as a heating fuel.
1812 – The term “gerrymandering” had its beginning when the governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, signed a redistricting law that favored his party.
1858 – A French girl, Bernadette Soubirous, claimed to have seen a vision of the Virgin Mary near Lourdes.
1916 – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presented its first concert. The symphony was the first by a municipal orchestra to be supported by taxes.
1937 – General Motors agreed to recognize the United Automobile Workers Union, which ended the current sit-down strike against them.
1943 – General Dwight David Eisenhower was selected to command the allied armies in Europe.
1945 – During World War II, the Yalta Agreement was signed by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Josef Stalin.
1957 – The NHL Players Association was formed in New York City.
1958 – Ruth Carol Taylor was the first black woman to become a stewardess by making her initial flight.
1960 – Jack Paar walked off while live on the air on the “Tonight Show” with four minutes left. He did this in response to censors cutting out a joke from the show the night before.
1972 – David Bowie performed as “Ziggy Stardust” for the first time.
1975 – Margaret Thatcher became the first woman to head a major party in Britain when she was elected leader of the Conservative Party.
1979 – Nine days after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini returned to Iran (after 15 years in exile) power was seized by his followers.
1989 – Rev. Barbara C. Harris became the first woman to be consecrated as a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
1993 – Janet Reno was appointed to the position of U.S. attorney general by President Bill Clinton. She was the first female to hold the position.
2000 – Great Britain suspended self-rule in Northern Ireland after the Irish Republican Army (IRA) failed to begin decommissioning (disarming) by a February deadline.y2001
2002 – The six stars on NBC’s “Friends” signed a deal for $24 million each for the ninth and final season of the series.
2006 – In Texas, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a quail hunt.
Source: On-THis-Day.com; History.com