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Watch Some of the Most Important Moments of Nelson Mandela's Life

Former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela has passed away

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Former South African president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela died today, South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, said. Mandela had been been hospitalized repeatedly for a recurring lung infection. He was 95 years old.

As CNN writes, South Africans hold up Mandela as the founding father of true democracy in South Africa, once segregated along racial lines. South Africa became a republic in 1961 but did not hold an election in which every adult in the country could vote until 1994.

Mandela began his fight against apartheid, which began in 1948, as a young man. The government sentenced him to life in prison for his political activities and he spent 27 years incarcerated.

Under national and international pressure, Mandela was released from prison in 1990, when he was 72 years old. National unrest and civil strife built until the apartheid was dismantled, and Mandela was elected president in the country's first multiracial election, in 1994. Mandela focused his efforts on diffusing racial and ethnic tensions and ending human rights abuse. After serving one term as president, he decided not to run for the office again and instead focused his efforts on combating AIDS/HIV and poverty through a non-profit he founded, the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Many South Africans refer to Mandela as "the father of the nation." 

Here, you can watch some of Mandela's most important moments, including his release from prison, a speech he made just after being released from prison and his inaugural address:

More from Smithsonian.com:

Hunger for Freedom: Food in the Life of Nelson Mandela
Robben Island: A Monument to Courage  

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