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Eddie Daniels: Master of his Fate

By Phelicia Francis

Bronx Journal Staff Writer

He is fair-skinned enough to pass for a white man, which would have meant a different set of circumstances for his life. However, Eddie Daniels, the former South African freedom fighter and prison mate of Nelson Mandela, would rather be classified as a black person. “I hate segregation and I hate the injustice that was taking place in South Africa,” Daniels said.

Daniels was speaking to a group of college students at Lehman College in the Bronx in October 2010. He was on a visit to the United States where he was promoting his book, “There and Back,” and giving motivational talks to college students.

The youngest of six children, Daniels, 78, was born in District Six in Cape Town and spent 15 years of his life imprisoned on Robben Island. He was charged with sabotage after he became a member of the Liberal Party, which was a nonracial and anti-government organization.

Prison was not all gloomy for Daniels. According to him he met the greatest people there, he studied and his life became enriched. It was in prison that he met the former South African President Nelson Mandela. “It was Mandela who motivated me to study in order to know the language of the oppressors,” Daniels said. He also recalled Mandela helping him while he was ill.

Upon his release from prison, Daniels became a member of the African National Congress, a South African political party and Black Nationalist organization, dedicated to the elimination of Apartheid. Seven years later he married his wife, Eleanor Daniels, whom he had met some years earlier in the diamond mines where he had worked.

Daniels grew up in a very poor household and was motivated to fight against the injustice that existed around him. “The Apartheid lasted for 300 years,” he said. “For 300 years the black child was inferior to the white.”

Now that 300 years of fighting against the holocaust of Apartheid has ended, Daniels is still fighting in order to bring stability and justice to his country. He said that he is grateful to all the parents and grandparents who helped to put an end to the Apartheid. He encouraged students to stay in school and emphasized that education is the key. “You are the masters of your fate, you are the captains of your soul,” he told the students, quoting from his favorite poem, “Invictus,” by William E. Henley.

One Response to Eddie Daniels: Master of his Fate

  1. Joan Hill March 29, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    Amazing job!

    Reply

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