The world is remembering former South African President Nelson Mandela, whodied Thursday at the age of 95. Bostonians are particularly remembering his visit here, soon after he was released from prison.
When Mandela visited, Margaret Burnham was a Boston-based leader in the Free South Africa/Free Mandela movement. She recounts that day: June 23, 1990.
“It was electric,” Burnham said. “Everyone felt it was historic. We were living that history at that moment. We were sharing space with one of the world’s greatest statesmen and peacemakers, perhaps one of the most unique leaders, certainly in the 20th century. And here he was, he was in our midst. He was both extraordinary and ordinary at the same time.”
It was just one day in Boston. And the stops were brief. But the images were enduring, says Burnham, who was the first African-American woman appointed a judge in Massachusetts and is now a law professor at Northeastern University.
“He was all that we thought he would be when he left prison,” she said. “He was full of humanity and grace and wisdom and peace — and as well a very practical politician.”