1. Mandela’s prison number was 46664. The number stems from the fact that he was the 466th prisoner of 1964. He has since embraced the number, making it the name of his HIV/AIDS awareness campaign and the name of a series of charity concerts benefiting said charity.
2. Mandela and his cousin Justice ran away from home in 1941 to avoid arranged marriages.
3. He finally did get to marry for love in 1944, to Evelyn Mase, but it was soon marred by tragedy. Their second child, Makaziwe, died at just nine months old. The couple named their second daughter after the first one. They had two other children: Madiba Thembekile (Thembi), who died in a car crash while Mandela was in prison in 1969, and Makgatho Lewanika, who died of AIDS in 2005. Mandela had two other children with second wife Winnie. He also has 20 grandkids and “a growing number” of great-grandchildren.
4. In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 18 “Mandela Day.” It’s his birthday, but it’s also a national celebration and recognition of Mandela’s contributions to freedom.
5. Mandela’s inauguration as President of South Africa in 1994 was historic for at least four reasons (and probably many more). First of all, he was the first democratically-elected president of South Africa ever. He was also the first black president to be elected in South Africa, and the oldest president to be elected. Finally, his inauguration united the largest number of Heads of State since JFK’s funeral in 1963.
6. Is a Mandela by any other name as sweet? I’m going to go with “yes” on that one. Mandela’s birth name wasn’t really Nelson—it was Rolihlahla, which his school teachers were unable to pronounce. One of them started calling him Nelson after British admiral Horatio Nelson. Apparently everyone else thought that was easier to say than “Rolihlahla” too, because the name obviously stuck. Rolihlahla, by the way, means “pulling the branch of a tree.”
7. South Africans commonly call Mandela “mkhulu” (grandfather), or Madiba, the Mandela family name for a respected elder.
8. One of Mandela’s most famous quotes isn’t really his quote. You may have heard it—it’s often cited as a quote from his 1994 inaugural speech:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure … As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
This is actually a quote by author and spiritual activist Marianne Williamson in her book A Return to Love. Not only did Mandela not coin the quote himself, he probably never even said it. “As far as I know, he has never used the quote in any of his speeches,” said Razia Saleh, an archivist at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, “and we have catalogued about 1000 thus far.”
9. He received more than 695 awards, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.