Credit: GPB/ File
It's 'Mandela Day.' Seven surprising facts about Nelson Mandela's 1990 visit to Atlanta
Nelson Mandela was one of the most respected political leaders and humanitarians in the world. He died in 2013 at age 95. Since that time the United Nations has celebrated 'Mandela Day' each year on Mandela's birthday, July 18.
Mandela spent more than two decades fighting apartheid in South Africa, including 27 years in South African prisons after being accused of political corruption.
He was elected president of South Africa in 1994 and served until 1999. In 2007, he joined with fellow former world influencers including Jimmy Carter, Mary Robinson, Kofi Annan and Desmond Tutu to form The Elders.
Mandela visited Atlanta in 1990
During his trip, Mandela visited Morehouse College. He spoke at Big Bethel Church. Mandela laid a wreath upon the crypt of Martin Luther King, Jr. and drew a crowd of thousands at Georgia Tech's Bobby Dodd Stadium, where trumpeter Hugh Masekela and South Carolina R&B singer Peabo Bryson performed.
It was a historic moment that Atlantans remembered fondly at a 2013 Morehouse ceremony honoring the life of the inspiring human rights leader.
But that first visit wasn't without its quirks, according to archival coverage from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Los Angeles Times and more:
- Mandela arrived in Atlanta on a Trump 727 jet.
- Some event attendees boycotted Coca-Cola products.
- There was friction between civil rights leaders who espoused MLK's nonviolence methods and those who accepted Mandela's justification for necessary violence.
- The Rev. Hosea Williams was arrested for picketing the $5 ticket cost of entry to Mandela's Georgia Tech speech.
- Mandela did not visit the Carter Center.
- Mandela rode in an armored limousine.
- More than 300 law enforcement officers were assigned to Mandela's visit.