Week Two: Kindness

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013) was a South African anti-apartheid political leader. He believed that the system of segregation (separating people) and discrimination on the grounds of race, was wrong. For example, following a law passed in 1950, white and black South Africans were not allowed to marry each other and black South Africans had their land and political rights removed. The concept of Baasskap meant the economic, social and political domination by the white minority in South Africa. Nelson Mandela served as the first black President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Before becoming President he had been imprisoned for 27 years by the South African government because of his fight against apartheid.

DO 119/1478, Nelson Mandela’s letter to the British Embassy whilst in prison


The Jail


14th September 1962


Sir John Maud GCB, CBE

The British Embassy

No 6 The Street



Dear Sir,

I have received six books which were sent to me by a friend in England through your Embassy. I thank you for making it possible to receive them, and I should be grateful if you would kindly inform the friend, should you be in possession of his or her address, that I greatly appreciate this valuable present.

Yours faithfully,

N Mandela




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Ideas for your letter

This letter represents a gesture of kindness. Can you think of a time during Lockdown when you would have welcomed a letter of kindness from someone? Or when you could have written a letter of kindness to someone else? What were you feeling at the time? What was difficult for you and for them? Or did you witness any acts of kindness during Lockdown that you’d like to tell someone else about?

What does this letter tell us?

What is this letter about? Read through the letter; can you work out what the kind gesture is and how Nelson Mandela feels about this?

In this letter, Nelson Mandela is thanking Sir John Maud (a British civil servant and diplomat) for sending him books, via the British Embassy in prison.

Nelson Mandela is thanking Sir John for his kindness, and says that he greatly appreciates being sent these books. He describes them as a ‘valuable present’ and it seems as though he is thankful for both the books themselves, as well as being thought of and remembered by this gesture.