Born in 1918 in Mvezo, grew up in Qunu, small villages on the East Cape of South Africa. Named Rolihlahla Mandela, baptised Nelson by a Methodist teacher: went to Fort Hare University (from which he was expelled due to his political activities) and then to Wits University (from which he never quite graduated, again due to focus on political activities rather than study) and became a lawyer in 1953. In 1944 he was a founder member of the Youth League of the African National Congress and by 1950 he was a member of the National Executive of the ANC and elected national president of the ANC Youth League.
Between 1906 and 1914 another lawyer, Mohandas K. Gandhi, had worked to gain more civil rights for the Indian community in South Africa, but not the black Africans. A year after Rlihlahla Mandela was born, South West Africa – which had been the colonial property of the German Empire – was granted to the South Africa Union, then a territory of the British Empire, under British Mandate. (The BBC leaps smoothly over all of this from 1919 to 1948.) In effect South West Africa remained annexed to South Africa until 21st March 1990 when it became the independent democracy of Namibia: registration laws for black Africans and, after 1948, white apartheid, imposed on it by the South African government.