Childhood and education
Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918, into a royal family of the Xhosaspeaking Thembu tribe in the South African village of Mvezo, where his father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (c. 18801928), served as chief. His mother, Nosekeni Fanny, was the third of Mphakanyiswas four wives, who together bore him nine daughters and four sons. After the death of his father in 1927, 9yearold Mandelathen known by his birth name, Rolihlahlawas adopted by Jongintaba Dalindyebo, a highranking Thembu regent who began grooming his young ward for a role within the tribal leadership.The first in his family to receive a formal education, Mandela completed his primary studies at a local missionary school. There, a teacher dubbed him Nelson as part of a common practice of giving African students English names. He went on to attend the Clarkebury Boarding Institute and Healdtown, a Methodist secondary school, where he excelled in boxing and track as well as academics. In 1939 Mandela entered the elite University of Fort Hare, the only Westernstyle higher learning institute for South African blacks at the time. The following year, he and several other students, including his friend and future business partner Oliver Tambo (19171993), were sent home for participating in a boycott against university policies.
After learning that his guardian had arranged a marriage for him, Mandela fled to Johannesburg and worked first as a night watchman and then as a law clerk while completing his bachelors degree by correspondence. He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand, where he became involved in the movement against racial discrimination and forged key relationships with black and white activists. In 1944, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) and worked with fellow party members, including Oliver Tambo, to establish its youth league, the ANCYL. That same year, he met and married his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase (19222004), with whom he had four children before their divorce in 1957.