Culture History 10 Things You Didn't Know About Nelson Mandela By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated May 14, 2020 During his life, Nelson Mandela received more than 695 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Congressional Medal. . Chris Jackson/Getty Images Share Twitter Pinterest Email Culture History Travel Sustainable Fashion Art & Media Holidays Community Most of us remember Nelson Mandela as the South African revolutionary and politician whose long imprisonment became a rallying cry for dismantling apartheid. We know he went on to be elected the first black president of the Republic of South Africa in the first open election in the country's history and that he remains one of the most inspiring and admired men in modern history even after his passing on Dec. 5, 2013. But there’s so much more to know. Consider the following: 1. His parents didn't name him Nelson Upon his birth on July 18, 1918, he was named Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela. He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the tradition of giving "Christian" names to students. 2. He was a poor student Mandela was expelled from the University College of Fort Hare for his participation in a student protest. He completed his BA through the University of South Africa before attending the University of the Witwatersrand for his law degree. By his own admission, he was not a very good student and left in 1948 without graduating; he also was unable to complete a law degree that he started at the University of London. It wasn’t until his last months in prison that he obtained his undergraduate law degree. By the time he died, he had received more than 50 honorary degrees from international universities. 3. He traveled under an alias In 1962, he took on the alias David Motsamayi and secretly left South Africa for other parts of Africa and England to rally support for the liberation movement and the African National Congress (ANC); he received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia. 4. He was a master of disguise Forced to go underground to evade the police, Mandela disguised himself as a chauffeur, a chef and a garden boy. "I would wear the blue overalls of the fieldworker and often wore round, rimless glasses known as Mazzawati tea glasses. I had a car and I wore a chauffeur's cap with my overalls. The pose of chauffeur was convenient because I could travel under the pretext of driving my master's car," he wrote in his autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom." 5. Some of his most famous words were spoken in court In 1963, Mandela and nine others went on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial, when he delivered his famous speech in which he concluded, "During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." Facing the death penalty, they were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. 6. His principles were more important than freedom He spent 27 years in prison until his release in 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release. 7. He was deluged with ticker tape 8. He loved tripe Umleqwa (farm chicken), ulusu (tripe), and amasi (sour milk) were among his favorite foods. His former chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya published a cookbook with his favorite recipes. 9. He was a concert promoter Mandela was the driving force behind the 2003 AIDS awareness event in Cape Town called the 46664 Concert. The huge event included performances by Beyonce, Peter Gabriel, Bono, Bob Geldof and many more. The name of the concert referenced Mandela's prison number. 10. His honors had no limits Mandela received more than 695 awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize and the U.S. Congressional Medal. In addition to his honorary degrees, he was bestowed with honorary citizenships, organization memberships, and a large number of streets, buildings, schools and other various things have been named for him. His influence can even be seen in Hollywood. In "The Cosby Show," the grandchildren of Cliff and Clair Huxtable, Winnie and Nelson Tibideau, were named after Mandela and his former wife.