Nelson Mandela’s First-Ever TV Interview (1961)

Note: This post was originally featured on our site in 2010. In light of the news that Nelson Mandela has passed away at age 95, we’re bringing this vintage clip back to the fore. Here you can see a young Mandela making history, and without perhaps realizing it, building the remarkable legacy that remains with us today.

In 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested on allegations of sabotage and other charges and sentenced to life in prison, where he spent 27 years before becoming South Africa’s first president elected in a fully democratic election. His story, among modern history’s most profoundly inspirational, is beautifully and poetically captured in Clint Eastwood’s 2009 gem, Invictus. But what Eastwood’s account leaves out are the events that preceded and led to Mandela’s arrest.

In May of 1961, a 42-year-old Mandela gave his first-ever interview to ITN reporter Brian Widlake as part of a longer ITN Roving Report program about Apartheid. At that point, the police are already hunting for Mandela, but Widlake pulls some strings and arranges to meet him in his hideout. When the reporter asks Mandela what Africans want, he promptly responds:

“The Africans require, want the franchise, the basis of One Man One Vote – they want political independence.”

But perhaps more interesting is the dialogue towards the end of the interview, where Mandela explores the complex relationship between peace and violence as protest and negotiation tactics. We’re left wondering whether his seemingly sudden shift from a completely peaceful campaign strategy up to that point towards considering violence as a possibility may be the product of South African police going after him with full force that week. Violence, it seems, does breed violence even in the best and noblest of us.

Related Content:

Nelson Mandela Archive Goes Online (With Help From Google)

The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Goes Online

U2 Releases a Nelson Mandela-Inspired Song, “Ordinary Love”

Maria Popova is the founder and editor in chief of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of eclectic interestingness and indiscriminate curiosity. She writes for Wired UKGOOD MagazineBigThink and Huffington Post, and spends a disturbing amount of time curating interestingness on Twitter.


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