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South African freedom fighter to speak as part of Presidential Forum on Diversity series


Eddie Daniels, right, with Nelson Mandela.
Eddie Daniels, right, with Nelson Mandela.

Eddie Daniels, a former South African freedom fighter and prison mate of Nelson Mandela, will speak Friday, Oct. 12, at 1 p.m. in the Nott Memorial.

His talk, "There and Back: One Man's Story of Apartheid," is part of the Presidential Forum on Diversity series. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Daniels grew up in District Six, a diverse and vibrant community that was considered the “coloured” area of Cape Town. Fearing the intrinsic power the community symbolized, the apartheid government ordered the neighborhood bulldozed.

Daniels joined the Liberal Party's African Resistance Movement, which sabotaged government utilities in an attempt to destabilize the apartheid government. In 1964 he was caught and incarcerated for 15 years at Robben Island, notorious for its brutal living conditions.

While in prison, Daniels became a friend and confidante to Mandela, the leader of the African National Congress (ANC), who, in 1994, became South Africa's first black president in the country's first fully democratic election.

Mandela considered Daniels "one of my greatest friends in prison," and upon their release from Robben Island, thanked him for his "loyalty and courage, his sense of humor and justice, as well as total commitment to the struggle of the prisoners for the eradication of injustice and for the betterment of their conditions.”

Daniels graduated from high school and earned his bachelor's degree from the University of South Africa while in prison. He later became a teacher in Cape Town until his retirement in 1993.

He recounts his fight against apartheid in his book, There and Back: Robben Island 1964-1979, writing, “We have won the war, we have yet to win the peace.”

Preceding the talk at 12:30 is a reception. Following the lecture, Daniels will sign copies of his book.

The Presidential Forum on Diversity was established in 2006 by President Stephen C. Ainlay to bring in notable speakers on a wide range of topics that promote diversity and inclusiveness.

Previous speakers have included faith leader Eboo Patel, poet Maya Angelou, journalist Soledad O'Brien, law professor Lani Guinier, Broadway star Anthony Rapp, actress Marlee Matlin and activist Morris Dees.