On his ideals
"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 will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
On becoming an anti-apartheid leader
"I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, 'Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people'; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise."
"You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution."
"The first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself. ... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility."
"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
"It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones."
"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
"It always seems impossible until it's done."
The history of apartheid, here and "His Day is Done," a tribute poem for Nelson Mandela by Maya Angelou.
(Pictures via here)