Cultural Calendar: Black History Month

Posted on
02 October 2023

Nelson Mandela was born Rolihlahla Mandela on 18th July 1918. There was a custom in South Africa where, when a child went to school they were given Christian names. His teacher, Miss Mdingane, named him Nelson.


“Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”


Nelson's passion for knowledge was evident throughout his life. Throughout his 25 year imprisonment he continued to learn new things, as he saw it as a way of escape.


"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”


‘Invictus’ is an 18th Century poem written by the English poet William Ernest Henley. The poem inspired Nelson Mandela during his time in Robben Island Prison, as the meaning of Invictus in Latin means ‘unconquered’. Mandela often read the poem to fellow prisoners to empower them, and at his memorial service in 2013, Barack Obama recited the poem in tribute. The poem features in the 2008 film, also named ‘Invictus’, where Morgan Freeman plays Mandela himself.




Invictus by William Earnest Henley

Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

      For my unconquerable soul.


In the fell clutch of circumstance

      I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

      My head is bloody, but unbowed.


Beyond this place of wrath and tears

      Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

      Finds and shall find me unafraid.


It matters not how strait the gate,

      How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul.


Looking at Nelson Mandela's life you can see a man of determination and faith in himself. Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life has been an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.He died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

Further Reading:

Black History Month - Black Mental Health matters | Shout 85258 (