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Literature Study GuidesI Am Prepared To Die Speech

I Am Prepared To Die Speech | Study Guide

Nelson Mandela

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Nelson Mandela

Year Delivered



Primary Source


History, Speech

At a Glance

  • For decades, South Africa had an official system of racial segregation, known as apartheid.
  • Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) was an anti-apartheid leader, involved with the African Nationalist Congress (ANC) and Umkhonto we Sizwe, a militant group.
  • In 1964, Mandela and others were tried for sabotage, treason, and conspiracy to overthrow the government.
  • At trial, Mandela gave a speech to make a moral case for his actions.
  • In the speech, Mandela discusses the history of the ANC, which had long had a policy of nonviolent resistance.
  • Mandela describes how, despite decades of nonviolent resistance, repression of black South Africans has grown worse.
  • Mandela argues that the only moral choice was to turn to violent tactics.
  • Mandela explains that Umkhonto decided to use sabotage and guerrilla warfare, seeing these methods as less damaging than terrorism and civil war.
  • Mandela addresses allegations the ANC and Umkhonto are communist organizations. He denies this but explains that communists have helped to fight against apartheid when no other group would.
  • Mandela also discusses his deep admiration for Western democracies.
  • Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. In 1990 Mandela was released from prison and later became South Africa's first black president (1994–1999).


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