After being imprisoned for three decades, the late Nelson Mandela became a man of mythical proportions. During his time behind bars, his picture was banned in South African media, his writings outlawed and a whole new generation unfamiliar with his story had been born -- yet he still served as the global face of the anti-apartheid movement. So, when Mandela was released from prison after 30 years, people around the world looked at him as if he were more god than man, a myth Mandela himself wanted to dispel as soon as he was freed.
During his interview with Oprah Winfrey in 2000, Mandela spoke candidly about his elevated reputation.
"I wanted to be known as 'Mandela,'" he told Oprah back then. "I knew it was not the contribution of one individual which would bring about liberation and the peaceful transformation of the country. And my first task when I came out [of prison] was to destroy the myth that I was something other than an ordinary human being."
Though Mandela may have been seen as the face of the movement to bring about that peaceful transformation, he acknowledged his role with great humility. "Whatever position I occupied, it was the result of colleagues -- of my comrades in the movement -- who had decided in their wisdom to use me for the purpose of focusing the attention of the country and the international community on me," he said. "Not because I had any better virtues than themselves, but because this was their decision."