1918 — Nelson Mandela born

One of the greatest political figures of the Twentieth Century, Nelson Mandela was born in the village of Mvezo, in the Umtata district of South Africa. He was descended from a cadet branch of the ruling clan of Umtata, the Thembu dynasty, and his father served for a time as village cheif in Mvezo.

From these not exactly humble beginnings, Mandela would go on to become a prominent anti-aparthied activist who engaged in acts of violent sabotage against the ruling white regime in South Africa; to serve 27 years in prison as a result of this; and finally, to become the first Prime Minister of a racially equal South Africa when apartheid was finally dismantled. For his long life of work, and his influence in promoting peaceful change (at least, after his imprisonment he did), he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, which he shared with Frederik Willem de Klerk, the white leader with whom Mandela had successfully ended apartheid.

Referenced in:

Born fe Rebel — Steel Pulse

1928 — Claude Debussy dies

One of the most popular and influential of all French composers, Claude Achille Debussy was on August 22, 1862. Debussy was a tireless experimenter who was not satisfied to stay within the bounds of what his teachers taught, and this quality informs the majority of his compositions. For instance, he was the first European composer to show the influence of gamelan. By the turn of the century, he was not merely seen as one of the greatest living composers in France, but in most of Central Europe.

Debussy’s death from cancer occurred during the final months of World War One. He died in Paris while that city was being bombarded by the German Spring Offensive. As such, despite being one of the nation’s most honoured sons, he was buried with a minimum of ceremony. After the war concluded, he was reinterred in a style more fitting his influence and status.

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Decomposing Composers — Monty Python