What you might not have known about Nelson Mandela

Mandela lifeDid you know about the role of rugby in Mandela's legacy? His musings on Valentine's Day? (Reuters)

The world knows Nelson Mandela as a man who forever changed the course of modern history and who will surely continue to leave his mark long after his death Thursday at the age of 95.

You may know that he spent 27 years in prison, that he led South Africa out of apartheid and that he served as his nation's first black president.

But did you know about the role of rugby in his legacy? His musings on Valentine's Day? The lessons he taught sympathetic prison guards during his time behind bars?

Here are some details from Mandela's life that you might not have known.

Father of the nation

Nelson Mandela's place as South Africa's premier hero is so secure that the central bank released new banknotes in 2012 showing his face. Busts and statues in his likeness dot the country and buildings, squares and other places are named after him. At Soweto's Regina Mundi Catholic church, a center of protests and funeral services for activists during the apartheid years, there is a stained glass image of Mandela with arms raised. South African Airways even emblazoned his silhouetted image on planes.

Valentine's day

A $1.25 million project to digitally preserve a record of Mandela's life went online last year at http://archive.nelsonmandela.org. The project by Google and Mandela's archivists gives researchers — and anyone else — access to hundreds of documents, photographs and videos. In one 1995 note, written in lines of neat handwriting in blue ink, Mandela muses on Valentine's day. It appears to be a draft of a letter to a young admirer, in which Mandela said his rural upbringing by illiterate parents left him "colossally ignorant" about simple things like a holiday devoted to romance.

Two anthems

At his inauguration, Mandela stood hand on heart, saluted by white generals as he sang along to two anthems: the apartheid-era Afrikaans "Die Stem" ("The Voice") and the African "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" ("Lord Bless Africa").

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