The life of Nelson Mandela is one that history books are made of.
"He became a symbol almost because of himself," said Dr. Claude Welch, a Distinguished Political Science Professor at the University at Buffalo and author of several books on the topic of human rights in Africa.
Welch was actually in west Africa conducting research for his book when Mandela was elected president in 1994.
"People knew what an epic, what an extraordinary event this was," Welch explained.
After spending 27 years in prison Mandela became the first black president of South Africa, the most prosperous country in Africa that had been steeped in the despair of apartheid.
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