This week we mourn the passing of a man capable of forgiving the unforgivable and uniting a nation. Nelson Mandela began writing his autobiography in 1974 while imprisoned at Robben Island. Here are some lines from the final pages of Long Walk to Freedom, with scenes from that infamous place.
It was during those long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom of my own people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black…A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness…The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.
When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say this has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free, we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road.
For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others…
I have walked that long road to freedom…I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.
—Nelson Mandela, in Long Walk to Freedom, 1994
And now he is at rest, with the world’s gratitude. Shine on, Mandela.