Reflections in Prison

Voices From the South African Liberation Struggle
Essays by South African leaders written in secret in Robben Island Prison

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In 1976, while imprisoned on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela secretly wrote the bulk of his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom. The manuscript was to be smuggled out by fellow prisoner Mac Maharaj on his release later that year. Maharaj also urged Mandela and other prominent political prisoners to write essays on South Africa's political future. These were smuggled out with Mandela's autobiography and are now published for the first time.

Written by Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, and four other leaders of the anti-apartheid movement, these essays provide a rare view of their thinking at a critical point in the liberation struggle, on the eve of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. The leaders describe their philosophies, strategies, and hopes. They debate such crucial issues as violent versus nonviolent forms of struggle, diversity and unity, the ideological challenge of the Black Consciousness movement, and how to accommodate different interpretations of African nationalism.

The book begins with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a contextualizing introduction by Maharaj. Then come two essays by Mandela and one each by Sisulu, Kathrada, Mbeki, Billy Nair, John Pokela, Eddie Daniels and Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo. Each essay is preceded by a short biography of the author, a description of his life in prison, and a pencil sketch by a black South African artist.

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