WorldViews: Read the most important speech Nelson Mandela ever gave

By Max Fisher, December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela was already 45 years old when, on April 20, 1964, he gave the defining speech of the anti-Apartheid movement, from the dock of a Pretoria courtroom.

Mandela had been in prison for two years already, for inciting workers to strike, when he was put on the stand again as part of the Rivonia Trials. Named for the Johannesburg suburb where South African police had arrested 19 ANC leaders, the trials were meant to be a blow against the group. But Mandela, charged with three counts of sabotage, seized the moment to speak directly to South Africa and the world.

What began as a statement by an accused prison became, over the 29 minutes it took Mandela to deliver it, his best known and most important speech. It was a recounting of his story up to that point, an expression of his views and a morally forceful argument on behalf of his cause. You will surely know it from the final lines:

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