Gandhi and Mandela: What Made Non-Violence Work? Background Essay The history of violence in the world is well documented. However it is also possible to use non-violence to bring about change. This DBQ will look at two countries where a non-violent movement was successful. Historic Context India and South Africa were two important nations on two different continents. But although they looked strong on the outside, each one suffered from a disease that threatened the health of the whole. For India, the disease was colonization. For South Africa, it was racial segregation. Three Conditions
In each of these nations three conditions help explain why non-violence worked. The first condition was that both of them had been colonies of England. And like England both countries thought law was very powerful – more powerful even than government officials. The second condition was the presence of violence. Without the possibility of a violent revolution, the government might not have been willing to change. The third condition was the presence of a leader – Mohandas Gandhi in India and Nelson Mandela South Africa. Each of these men was so charismatic he could lead his followers to a non-violent victory.
Both of them gave their lives to the cause. Gandhi was shot by an assassin while Mandela spent almost twenty-seven years of his life in prison. These are their stories. Mohandas Gandhi – “An eye-for-an-eye only makes the whole world blind” Mohandas Gandhi was born in 1869, in Porbandar, India. His father taught his son respect for all religions. His mother taught him that all living things are holy. Following custom, Gandhi married at age 13; his wife, Kasturbai, was even younger. At age 19 he went to London to study law, and at age 22 Gandhi completed his studies.
He now felt more than ever that the English, who had ruled India for almost two centuries, were law-abiding and fair. Hopes high, he sailed for home. Gandhi tried to set up a law practice in India but was so shy he failed miserably. When someone suggested he try his luck in South Africa, he jumped at the offer. But no sooner had he arrived there than he was thrown off a train, just for being a “colored” man holding a first class ticket! Even for a shy man, it was too great an insult. When he fought back he was sent to jail. It was there he became a leader, bringing about important changes for South Africa’s Indian community.
When Gandhi returned to India, he was paraded around like a hero because of his South African victories. But everywhere he looked he was horrified by the poverty he saw. He saw, too, that to be successful in the world the English had built. Indians had to imitate their rulers – their clothes, their manners, and their standards of beauty. Gandhi refused! Gandhi wanted people to live free of all kinds of snobbery, even the ones imposed by India’s ancient caste system. The first thing he did was to build a different kind of community where he could model this classless society.
He dressed in the clothes a poor man would wear and did chores an untouchable [people so low they are below caste] would do. Most Indians thought he was absurd. But slowly his strange ideas were accepted until Gandhi came to be known as ‘Mahatma’ or ‘Great Soul. ’ Gandhi saw that India’s self-respect was tied to independence. But England was a giant with colonies all around the globe. And Indian politicians had worked for independence for at least half a century. How much harder would it be for the gentle Gandhi? Yet in the end Gandhi succeeded. The question is how?
Nelson Mandela – “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can also be taught to love. ” Rolihlahla Mandela was born in 1918 in a tiny village in South Africa. He was still a baby when his father, a tribal chief, was dethroned for disrespecting an English judge. At age seven he was sent to a boarding school where he learned to live under apartheid, a Dutch South African word meaning “racial apartness. ” There he was given the name “Nelson” because his African name, which could sometimes be translated as “Troublemaker,” wasn’t European.
This was the first time, though not the last, that Mandela felt disrespected for his blackness. In the 1930’s it was rare for a black South African to attend college. But Mandela not only attended, he graduated, got a degree from law school, and set up a practice in Johannesburg which he hoped could support his small family. Yet apartheid was always a humiliation to him. When the Afrikaner, or Dutch South African, Nationalists came to power in the 1948 election, the segregation habits of the past three hundred years became law. Hoping for a brighter future, Mandela joined the African National Congress (ANC) and became its first Youth Leader.
In the 1960s, many of the colonial nations of Africa were gaining independence. The ANC was encouraged and campaigned for democracy in South Africa. They were mild campaigns at first, but as the government became more hostile, so did ANC protests. In November 1961, a military branch of the party was organized with Mandela as its head. It authorized the limited use of arms and sabotage against the government, which got the government’s attention—and its anger! Mandela went into hiding in 1964, he was captured, tried, and sentenced to life imprisonment. It was a sad day for black South Africa.
As days stretched to months, months to years, and years to decade, Mandela lived most of them at brutal Robben Island Prison. There his guards did their best to break his spirit with isolation and abuse. Remarkably he kept his hope and dignity alive. Then, twenty-six and half long years after his imprisonment began, he was released. Again, Mandela could tackle the job of dismantling apartheid. He hoped, like the Afrikaner government that freed him that he could keep South Africa from erupting into civil war. The Question Gandhi and Mandela were sitting on powder kegs built on hate and injustice.
The people in each society knew the powder kegs existed. More importantly their governments knew they existed. Yet both men were able to bring about non-violent change. Gandhi brought independence to India and Mandela brought democracy to South Africa. So how did they do it? The presence of violence, the respect for law, the leadership of a charismatic individual—these 3 ingredients were important, but not the whole story. Now examine the documents that follow, looking for further ways that non-violent change was achieved in India and South Africa. Again the question: Gandhi and Mandela: What made non-violence work?
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