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Penn State NAACP to Host Candlelight Vigil for Nelson Mandela

Penn State’s chapter of NAACP announced it will host a candlelight vigil for Nelson Mandela at 6 p.m. Monday on the steps of Old Main. Candles will be provided for participants.

The former South African president died yesterday at 95 of complications from a recurring lung infection. The anti-apartheid leader was beloved around the world for opposing South Africa’s system of racial discrimination. Mandela’s fight against the white minority rule resulted in his nearly 30-year imprisonment.

Even while he was behind bars, Mandela’s popularity grew throughout the world as he became a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement. At Penn State, students rallied on the steps of Pattee Library in 1990 when news spread of Mandela’s release from prison.

Mandela’s involvement in South African affairs gave the Penn State Board of Trustees the confidence to repeal economic sanctions levied in 1987 against South Africa. Six years after Penn State decided to stop investing in equities with ties to South Africa
to “make a commitment to human justice,” the BOT amended the previous policy.

At the time, James Stewart, Penn State vice provost for educational equity, said “the decision to reinvest is consistent with what Nelson Mandela and the ANC want, and the University should not second-guess someone who is working for change for his people.”

The respect Penn Staters had for Mandela’s goal of promoting civil rights remained throughout Mandela’s five years as president. Penn State even asked Mandela’s wife to speak at the Bryce Jordan Center in 1997, although it was later canceled due to unresolved political conditions in South Africa.

For his lifelong efforts, Penn State’s Africana Research Center and the Department of African and African American Studies initiated the Nelson Mandela Lecture Series in 2005. He was selected to introduce the Penn State community to the scholarship of an African civil rights activist.

“The annual lecture will usually be scheduled in the spring semester and is named after Nelson Mandela because he is the by far the most noted civil rights activist who not only changed the sociopolitical structure of South Africa but also challenged the world to have a conscience in addressing human rights,” according to the Africana Research Center.

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About the Author

Jessica Tully

Jessica Tully is a first-year law student at Penn State's Dickinson School of Law. She graduated in May 2014 with degrees in journalism and political science.

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