It was one of those moments in history that will be remembered forever. And Jesse Jackson Jr. was a witness to the historic event.
Jackson, now a Democratic Representative from Illinois, was 24 years old on Feb. 11, 1990, when he found himself next to anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela on the day of his release after nearly 28 years in a South African prison. Jackson is pictured here between Mandela and his wife at the time, Winnie.
Jackson was in South Africa with his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to urge South African President F.W. de Klerk to release the longtime political prisoner.
Jackson and his father were in a motorcade swarmed by the public, apparently because the crowd believed Mandela was in the car. Jackson said the crowd forced the entourage to flee the vehicle and run to an area secured by government forces. Soon, Mandela himself appeared and greeted the younger Jackson by name. When Mandela moved to greet the crowd, Jackson looked around and realized he was the only American to make it to the podium with the Mandelas. “I was completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of the moment,” Jackson said. “I threw my fist up with pride.”