On March 29, 1961, the tide of apartheid began to turn in South Africa when Nelson Mandela was acquitted in court of treason charges after a trial that had lasted more than four years. It was more than just a victory in one man’s court trial, though. It was also a victory in the symbolic struggle of the African National Congress political party against the South African apartheid state.
The African National Congress, or ANC, was founded in 1912 with the mission of defending the freedoms and rights of all Africans. Nelson Mandela became president of the ANC Youth League in 1950. In that same year, the South African government greatly increased its apartheid efforts. This led the ANC to call for an end to apartheid and all forms of racial discrimination. The government did not react to this well, and the next year, Nelson Mandela and more than 150 other people connected with the ANC were arrested and charged with treason.
Protests erupted across the country. Mandela was transferred to a Pretoria jail. His lengthy and brutal treatment there only inspired him to fight harder. And, despite the government’s best efforts, he was found not guilty of the treason charges. When he was released from prison, he went underground to organize a strike and aid the efforts of the now-illegal ANC. And while it would take decades, their struggle would eventually lead to the end of apartheid in South Africa.