Nelson Mandela’s ‘Release from Prison’ Speech Summary, Text, & Analysis

February 16, 2023

7 min read

Famous activist Nelson Mandela triumphantly raises his fist in the air

If you are looking for an analysis of Nelson Mandela’s “Release from Prison” speech summary, text, and analysis, you are in the right place. Nelson Mandela was central to new beginnings in South Africa and the end of apartheid. He spent 27 years in prison and following his release on February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela would go on to speak about his hopeful future for the country.

Nelson Mandela’s ‘Release from Prison’ Speech Summary

  • The speaker expresses gratitude to the people of Cape Town and the millions of supporters campaigning for their release around the world.
  • The speaker acknowledges the strength of the African National Congress and salutes its role as leader of the freedom struggle.
  • The speaker recognizes the sacrifices of the Frontline States in their contribution to the Anti-Apartheid struggle.
  • The speaker expresses gratitude for the support of their family during their imprisonment.
  • They emphasize the need for decisive mass action in order to establish a peaceful, democratic and free society for all South Africans.
  • The speaker calls for the international community to continue isolating the regime, and to impose sanctions to help in the eradication of Apartheid.
  • The speaker encourages all South Africans not to be afraid and to take action to achieve a society of universal suffrage and non-racial harmony.

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Nelson Mandela’s “Release from Prison” Speech Text

With any speech, the Yoodli AI-powered speech coach provides a transcript for accessible viewing. You can view Mandela’s “Release from Prison” speech below:

"Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans. I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you, not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.

On this day of my release, I extend my sincere and warmest gratitude to the millions of my compatriots and those in every corner of the globe who have campaigned tirelessly for my release. I send special greetings to the people of Cape Town, this city which has been my home for three decades. Your mass marches and other forms of struggle have served as a constant source of strength to all political prisoners.

I salute the African National Congress. It has fulfilled our every expectation in its role as leader of the great match to freedom. I salute our president for meeting the A n C even under the most difficult.

Second, I salute the members of the A n c. You have sacrificed life and love in the pursuit of the noble cause of our father on this occasion. We thank the world. We thank the world community for their great contribution to the Antia party struggle. Without your support, our struggle would not have reached this advanced stage. The sacrifice of the frontline states will be remembered by South Africans forever. My SALs will be incomplete without expressing my deep appreciation for the strength given to me during my long and low years in prison by my beloved wife and family.

I am convinced that your pain and suffering was far greater than my own. Before I grow any further, I wish to make the point that I intend making only few preliminary compass. At the stage, I will make a more complete statement only after I have heard the opportunity to consult with my comrades. Today the majority of South Africans lack and white recognize that a party has no future. It has to be ended by our own decisive mass action in order to build peace and security.

The mass campaigns of defiance and other actions of our organization and people can only call me in the establishment of democracy. The apartheid destruction on our subcontinent is in the of family. Life of million of my paper has been shut out. Millions are homeless and unemployed. Our economy, our economy lies in ruins and our people are embroiled in political strike. Our result to the straddle In 1960 with the formation of the military wing of the A N C was a purely defensive action against the violence of party.

The factors which necessitated the arm struggle still exist today. We have no option but to continue. We express the hope that a climate conducive to a negotiated settlement would be created soon so that they may no longer be the need for the armed struggle. I am a loyal and disciplined member of the African National Congress. I am therefore in full agreement with all of its objective strategies and tactics. The need to unite the people of our country is as important a task now as it always has been.

No individual leader is able to take on these enormous tasks on his own. It is our task as leaders to place our views before our organization and to allow the democratic structures to decide on the way forward. On the question of democratic practice, I feel duty pound to make the point that a leader of the movement is a person who has been democratically elected at a national conference. This is a principle which must be a held without any exception.

Our struggle has reached a decisive moment. We call on our people to seize this moment so that the process towards democracy is rapid and uninterrupted. We have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify this treasure on all France to relax. Our efforts now would be a mistake. Which generations to come will not be able to forgive. The site of freedom looming on the horizon should encourage us to redouble our efforts.

It is only through discipline must action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compat to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa. The freedom movement is the political home for you too. We call on the international community to continue the campaign to isolate the regime to live sanctions now would be to run the risk of aborting the process towards the complete eradication of a party.

Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way. Universal suffrage on a common voters rule in a united, democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to be and racial harmony. In conclusion, I wish to go to my own words during my trial in 1964. They are as true today as they were. From I go, I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination.

I have cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in which all passions live together in harmony and and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal, which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an idea for which I am prepared to die."

Nelson Mandela’s “Release from Prison” Speech Analysis

Word choice

In terms of word choice, Mandela’s speech ranked well with Yoodli only detecting improvements in repetition for four key phrases. However, repetition can often play a valuable role in emphasizing the central argument. Furthermore, Mandela’s top used words included but are not limited to “freedom,” “struggle,” and “people.”


In the delivery category, Yoodli ranked Mandela’s speech with the appropriate number of pauses with suggestions for improving pacing. Mandela averaged around 80 words per minute, slower than the suggested 120 words per minute.

With improvements to pacing, delivery of speech can maintain audience engagement over an extended period of time.

Wrapping Up


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