BLACK VOICES
02/11/2015 05:24 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2016

These Photos Prove Nelson Mandela's Legacy Thrives 26 Years After His Prison Release

RAJESH JANTILAL via Getty Images

On this day in 1990, massive crowds gathered throughout South Africa to celebrate the release of the nation's beloved Nelson Mandela.

It marked a momentous occasion and an even more significant moment for Mandela, a vocal and empowering leader who, because of these same traits, had been imprisoned for 27 years and was finally freed.

For nearly three decades, Mandela was removed from public contact and lived within the confines of various small, cement-covered cells after being convicted for conspiracy of overthrowing the government and speaking out against a racist regime that denied civil and human rights to black South Africans.

However, Mandela’s legacy did not suffer from similar limitations. Instead, his great efforts in the abolition of apartheid inspired and motivated many -- in South Africa and beyond -- who have hailed him as their hero.

Upon his release, Mandela went on to prove that years of solitary confinement and imprisonment were no hindrance to the profound power and will he had in his fight for racial equality.

The anti-apartheid leader continued his mission to unite a racially divided country, and -- with the help of many influential men and women, both before his imprisonment and after -- led the nation through a tremendous liberation movement.

Along the way, his accomplishments earned him great accolades, including a Nobel Peace Prize that sealed his status as an internationally recognized trailblazer, and shortly after, a winning election that crowned him as South Africa’s first democratically elected and first black president.

Mandela died on Dec. 5, 2013, but he continues to be celebrated by the millions of people whose lives were forever changed for the better. His unprecedented wisdom, courage and leadership are unlike many others and his journey was arduous but fulfilling.

Because of this, South Africans honor the civil rights leader in a number of ways that pay homage to his contributions and honor his long-lasting legacy. Many places Mandela visited, lived or occupied have been preserved and transformed into national historic landmarks.

Meanwhile, an impressive and growing portfolio of public art works and heritage sites show the pride and respect South Africans share for Mandela and, by doing so, powerfully retell his challenging and courageous long walk to freedom.

Take a look at some of the images below and see the people and iconic public places in South Africa honoring Mandela:

PHOTO GALLERY
Nelsn Mandela's Life In Pictures

This post has been updated to reflect the number of years since Mandela's historic release.

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