Crowds gathered in South Africa on Wednesday for the funeral of Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95. For years, Mandela fought to end racial segregation in his home country of South Africa. He became a hero to many people all over the world.
Tens of thousands of people came together to remember their country’s legendary leader. The service was held in a huge stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. Kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, and famous musicians and actors all came to pay their respects to the famous politician.
“He changed laws, but he also changed hearts,” U.S. President Barack Obama said in a speech at the funeral.
FROM LEADER TO LEGEND
Mandela worked tirelessly to end apartheid—a brutal system of racial segregation in South Africa that kept black people and white people apart.
Under apartheid, in a country that was 70 percent black, only whites could vote. Blacks were allowed very little schooling. They could not socialize with whites or even travel outside their neighborhoods without government permission. They also could not run for office in the government.
Mandela ran organizations and protests that worked to end apartheid. In 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison for crimes against the state. But Mandela continued his work to change South Africa from his jail cell.
He spent 27 years in prison. He became the country’s first black president four years after he was freed, in 1990. (Click here to learn more about apartheid in South Africa.)
HONORING A HERO
Rain poured over the stadium during Mandela’s memorial service, but still thousands showed up to honor him. Only 23 years before, Mandela had stood in the same stadium to give a speech about freedom. Today, huge posters of his face covered the stadium, and crowds cheered and cried while remembering him.
“To the people of South Africa . . . the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us,” President Obama said in one of many speeches that day.
Mandela’s casket was then sent through the streets of Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital. Officials expect hundreds of thousands of South Africans to visit his body over the next week so they can say goodbye in person. His funeral will be held on Sunday, when he will be buried in his childhood hometown.