Extraordinary Stories of Ordinary Life

Remembering Robben Island

Robben Island Prison, South Africa

What is it like to sacrifice for a cause? To give up everything, even your freedom, for something you believe in?

Nelson Mandela famously spent 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid in South Africa. He was sentenced to life in 1964 for treason, along with 7 others. One of them was Ahmed Kathrada. Kathrada died this week. He was 87.

Mandela, Kathrada and the others served most of their sentences at Robben Island. Kathrada often said that being in prison for more than two decades was like being preserved in amber. When he was released, he found himself in a pretty different country. He was now allowed in the same restaurants, theaters and libraries as whites. But being allowed in doesn’t always mean you feel you belong. After spending his entire life fighting a racist system, Kathrada said he began to realize how much of that system he still carried inside. Today on the podcast, we’re remembering Ahmed Kathrada with chapter 3 of our award-winning series Mandela: An Audio History.


Eddie Daniels (political prisoner)
Ahmed Kathrada (political prisoner)
Sonny Venkatrathnam (political prisoner)
Neville Alexander (political prisoner)
Nelson Mandela
Zindzi Mandela-Hlongwane (daughter of Nelson Mandela)
Mac Maharaj (political prisoner)


Mandela: An Audio History was produced by Joe Richman, Sue Jaye Johnson and Ben Shapiro. Edited by Deborah George and Chris Turpin. The Radio Diaries Podcast is produced by Nellie Gilles and Sarah Kate Kramer. We have support from the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowments for the Arts, the New York Council on the Arts, and many others. We are a proud member of Radiotopia from PRX, a network of sixteen outstanding podcasts. 

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