News & Politics

DC Will Mourn Nelson Mandela With Week of Tributes

Plus, watch Mandela's 1994 speech at Howard University.

The Embassy of South Africa unveiled a nine-foot bronze statue of Nelson Mandela in September. Photograph by Flickr user Ted Eytan.

With the world mourning the death yesterday of former South Africa President Nelson Mandela, Washington residents will have many opportutnities in the coming days to pay their own respects. The DC government and Embassy of South Africa announced today a weeklong remembrance of Mandela.

Mourners were quick to gather at the embassy last night on Massachusetts Ave., Northwest, as news of Mandela’s death broke. A fence erected around the embassy while it undergoes renovations is being rolled back to accomodate nightly candlelight vigils from tonight through next Thursday. Additionally, DC Mayor Vince Gray said today that the District government will leave a condolence book open in the foyer of the John A. Wilson Building starting Monday.

On Wednesday at 11 AM, the National Cathedral will hold a service in Mandela’s memory. Speakers for the service are still being arranged, but it should be a packed event. “I don’t know if you can get the entire country into the Cathedral, but we’re going to find a way to make sure Mandela’s memory is not lost in this city,” Gray said.

Mandela made several visits to Washington, and his public appearances always gathered massive crowds. He spoke to 19,000 people at the Washington Convention Center in June 1990, shortly after the end of his 27-year prison term. During a 1994 visit, Mandela drew 15,000 people to Howard University for a 20-minute address capped with a reading the William Ernest Henley poem “Invictus.”

Watch Mandela’s Howard University speech in two parts.


Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.