Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
South African activist, statesman, and Nobel laureate, who was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994. Mandela rose to national prominence as the leader of protest against the white minority government's policy of rigid racial segregation known as apartheid, which officially ended in 1991. Elected president in the country's first democratic elections, Mandela promised a new multiracial government that would work to reverse the economic and social problems caused by apartheid.
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negotiations with the government for a new constitution that would grant political power to the country's black majority population. In 1991 the government repealed the last of the laws that formed the legal basis for apartheid. Mandela and de Klerk shared the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in establishing democracy and racial harmony in South Africa. In May 1994, after the country's first national elections in which blacks could vote, Mandela became president of South Africa.