Nelson Mandela is a man who barely needs an introduction. His almost superhuman leadership to the process of ending apartheid is now legendary. He became South Africa’s first-ever black president and remains one of the world’s greatest symbols for freedom and equality.

It took Mandela 50 years of political activity after joining the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 to overthrow the oppression of the African majority in South Africa. The white supremacist National Party, which came to power in 1948, made apartheid an official government policy, which stripped the black people of their rights.

Mandela organised several civil disobedience movements, boycotts and non-violent strikes in retaliation, which he later dropped to adopt more aggressive, violent tactics. He was taken as a political prisoner in 1962 and imprisoned for 27 years. Even in prison he fought for the living conditions of the prisoners and remained the strongest symbol of the anti-apartheid movement.

Mandela, however, wasn’t completely alone in the fight against apartheid. FW De Klerk, president of South Africa from 1989 to 1994, had Mandela released and assisted him in setting up a multiracial, democratic government in the country. They jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Mandela was elected the first black South African president in 1994 (video above). His inaugural address has joined the league of Martin Luther King Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he quotes, saying “Free at last, free at last, thank god almighty we are free at last.”

Watch his full inaugural address here.