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“These messages to family, friends, comrades, elected officials and prison administrators reveal a Mandela as vulnerable as any other human.... Mr. Mandela’s prison letters underscore isolation’s other violence: every incarcerated human is stripped of family. Separating a person from his kin is the ultimate expression of state power. I can’t help seeing, in the image of Mr. Mandela’s daughter begging for her father’s return, the children weeping at our southern border. Considering the solace and strength he took from these folded sheets of paper, it’s a marvel his captors allowed him any mail at all.... Mr. Mandela’s letters tell a story beyond their own words.”
Tayari Jones, New York Times

“Heartbreaking and inspiring.... This book confronts readers with the most direct evidence yet of Mandela’s intellectual evolution into one of the great moral heroes of our time.... With words as his only ammunition, Mandela fought his case patiently, on lined paper, his eloquence inseparable from his rectitude.”
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, New York Times

“A necessary, intimate portrait of the great leader. The man who emerges is warm and intelligent and a savvy, persuasive, and strategic thinker. During his life, Mandela was a loving husband and father, a devotee of the ANC's struggle, and capable of interacting with prominent statesmen and the ANC's rank and file. He was not above flattery or hard-nosed steeliness toward his captors as suited his needs, and he was always yearning for freedom, not only—or even primarily—for himself, but rather for his people, a goal that is the constant theme of this collection and was the consuming vision of his entire time as a prisoner. Venter adds tremendous value with his annotations and introductions to the work as a whole and to the book's various sections. A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history's most vital figures.”
Kirkus Reviews [Starred Review]

“In 1962, when he was arrested, Nelson Mandela, who would become the first black and democratically elected president of South Africa and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, was a 44-year-old husband, father of five young children, and prominent anti-apartheid activist.... With editor Venter’s succinct contextual information, Mandela’s reasoned and diligent letters tell the inside story of a freedom fighter who refused to betray his principles and comrades, no matter how much anguish he endured in isolation from his loved ones, who also suffered terribly.... A landmark historical source and a dramatic read, this collection of Mandela’s letters illuminates with stunning immediacy the genius, sacrifice, discipline, courage, and commitment of a world-changing civil rights hero.”
Booklist [Starred Review]

“This collection of 255 prison letters written by the late revolutionary and former president of South Africa provides a unique glimpse of Mandela during his 27-year incarceration, which he served at four different prisons. Both intimate and diplomatic, these writings showcase Mandela's various roles as a husband, father, friend, and lawyer.... An important work for library collections and voracious readers of history.”
Library Journal

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