Photos: Nelson Mandela’s story through his encounters with celebrities and leaders

After she met Nelson Mandela at his 91st birthday party in 2009, Alfre Woodard, an American actress, told New York Magazine that she “was just trembling; not with fear, just with joy and energy.” She added: “I think I was levitating.”

Woodard is hardly the only star for whom meeting Mandela, the legendary South African activist and president who died today, was like a rite of passage. In the 23 years after his release from prison in 1990, Mandela embraced or shook hands with countless celebrities and world leaders, and judging by the photos of some of those encounters, he was a deeply venerated man—an icon among icons.

Some of the figures that appear beside Mandela have since passed away; others have simply faded from the public consciousness; and still others have become notorious. Taken together, the images tell the history of Mandela’s political career through the people he met. Through it all, Mandela remains Mandela.

1990

Released from prison in February

Nelson Mandela receives a bust of the late president John F. Kennedy from the president's brother Sen. Edward Kennedy, left, during a ceremony at the John F. Kennedy library in Boston Saturday, June 23, 1990.  At far right is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  Eunice Shriver, sister of Sen. Kennedy looks on behind Mandela.  At right is Joe Kennedy II, son of Robert Kennedy.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Ted Kennedy (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis casts a smiling glance at Nelson Mandela, deputy president of the African National Congress, during Mandela's visit to the John F. Kennedy Library on June 23, 1990 in Boston. The Kennedy family has been a longtime opponent of South Africa's policy of apartheid. (AP Photo/Peter Southwick)
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (AP Photo/Peter Southwick)
President Bush greets South African leader Nelson Mandela on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington on June 26, 1990. Mandela told Bush that support South Africa has received from the United States - particularly economic sanctions - have been crucial to promoting changes in his country. (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
George H. W. Bush (AP Photo/Doug Mills)
British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shakes hands with ANC deputy leader Nelson Mandela inside 10 Downing Street, London, on July 4, 1990, prior to talks and a luncheon. Mandela is on a three-day visit to Britain as part of an extensive international tour. (AP Photo/Cleaver)
Margaret Thatcher (AP Photo/Cleaver)
Nelson Mandela shakes hands with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. in this 1990 photo.  (Frederick Watkins, Jr./Ebony Collection)
Jesse Jackson (Frederick Watkins, Jr. / AP)

1991

Nelson Mandela, right, Deputy President of the African National Congress meets up with his wax double at Madame Tussaud's Thursday, April 26, 1991 in London. (AP Photo/Gill Allen)
A wax double at Madame Tussaud’s (AP Photo/Gill Allen)

1992

1993

1994

Elected president of South Africa in April

South African President Nelson Mandela hugs Whitney Houston at the presidency on November 10, 1994. Houston is on a three-concert tour in South Africa.  REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya - RTR1HC2A
Whitney Houston (REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)

1995

Pope John Paul II and South African President Nelson Mandela stand for national anthems after the Pontiff's arrival to Johannesburg Saturday, September 16, 1995. The visit marks the Pope's first official trip to South Africa. (AP Photo/John Moore)
Pope John Paul II (AP Photo/John Moore)

1996

South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with popular actor Sidney Poitiers as he talks at a news conference in Cape Town, Friday, May 17. 1996. Poitier is in South Africa starring in the leading role as Mandela, alongside Michael Caine, who plays former President F. W. de Klerk in "One Man One Vote". The film tells the story of the transition from a white minority government to black majority rule. (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
Sidney Poitier (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
Michael Jackson (REUTERS)
** FILE ** In this Wednesday August 21, 1996, file photo Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama, left, meets with President Nelson Mandela, right, in Cape Town South Africa. South Africa said Monday, March 23, 2009,  it wanted to avoid being the source of bad publicity about trading partner China, and ended up itself the target of sharp criticism for barring the Dalai Lama from a peace conference in Johannesburg later this week. Friday's conference is now the target of a boycott by retired Cape Town Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former president F.W. de Klerk and members of the Nobel Committee who had been expected to be among Nobel laureates, Hollywood celebrities and other dignitaries discussing issues ranging from combatting racism to promoting sports to bring people and nations together. (AP Photo/Sasa Kralj, File)
The Dalai Lama (AP Photo/Sasa Kralj)
President Nelson Mandela shares a joke with British Labour Party leader Tony Blair after their meeting, October 11. Blair is on a short visit to the country to attend a meeting of the Commonwealth Press Union.

SAFRICA BLAIR - RTRUFL
Tony Blair (REUTERS)

1997

Comedian Bill Cosby (L) meets with South African President Nelson Mandela at Mandela's residence in Cape Town March 20. Cosby is in South Africa for a benefit performance on the island where Mandela was held as a political prisoner, to turn the island into a museum.

MANDELA COSBY - RTR2KJM
Bill Cosby (REUTERS)
Princess Diana (REUTERS)
Barney, the purple dinosaur known by children around the world, is greeted by the South African President Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg Monday, March 24, 1997 on the occasion of Barney's first visit to Africa. A donation was made in Barney's name to the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. (AP Photo)
Barney (REUTERS)
The triple world heavyweight boxing champion, Evander Holyfield (L) and South African President Nelson Mandela face each other at Presidential residence in Johannesburg July 7. Holyfield on a short visit to South Africa, sponsored by Coca-Cola, visited President Mandela who leaves for an official visit to the United Kingdom tonight accompanied by Graca Machel.

SAFRICA HOLYFIELD - RTR58CG
Evander Holyfield (REUTERS)
Prince Charles, Scary Spice, and Ginger Spice (REUTERS)

1998

Bill Clinton (REUTERS)
South African President Nelson Mandela and pop singer Diana Ross embrace outside of Mandelas residence in Johannesburg April 8. Diana Ross is in South Africa to perform one concert at the official opening of the brand new leading venue in Gauteng, the MTN Sundome.

SAFRICA ROSS - RTRD0SN
Diana Ross (REUTERS)
Britains Queen Elizabeth II (R) chats with South African President Nelson Mandela, at Windsor Castle, England June 15. Mandela later flew to Cardiff to meet with European leaders attending the Europe Summit.

SR - RTREVUB
Queen Elizabeth II (REUTERS)
Stevie Wonder (REUTERS)
President Nelson Mandela (L) Cuban President Fidel Castro (C) and Graca Machel (R) pose for photographers September 2, during the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Durban. Sixty heads of State are attending the meeting which runs until September 3.

JN/FMS - RTRGVX8
Fidel Castro (REUTERS)
Golf superstar Tiger Woods smiles as he meets South African President Nelson Mandela at the presidential residence in Houghton, Johannesburg November 30. Woods came to South Africa to play in the One Million-Dollar golf tournament played in Sun City starting December 3.
**DIGITAL IMAGE** - RTXHV40
Tiger Woods (REUTERS)

1999

Leaves office in June

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (R) hugs his South African counterpart Nelson Mandela during their meeting April 29. [Yeltsin boasted of his good health on Thursday, telling Mandela that even the Communists could not bring him down.  ] - RTXIY85
Boris Yeltsin (REUTERS)
South African President Nelson Mandela greets Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at the Tuynhuis at Cape Town airport June 13. Gaddafi arrived in South Africa on Sunday as retiring President Nelson Mandela's last official guest.

PA/FMS - RTRQ033
Muammar Gaddafi (REUTERS)
Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, (R) shakes hands with Bill Gates, chairman and CEO of Microsoft, at a global health discussion in Seattle December 9. Mandela was invited to Seattle by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is spending three days meeting with community leaders.

JC/BM - RTRT570
Bill Gates (REUTERS)

2000

2001

British heavyweight boxer Lennox Lewis (R) shows Former President Nelson Mandela April 23,2001, his jaw were he took a knockout punch from challenger American Hasim Rahman in the fifth round of Sunday's heavyweight championship fight at Carnival City in Brakpan. Rahman, who scored one of boxing's biggest upsets, flew home to the United States after the fight.

JN/ - RTR13ULV
Lennox Lewis (REUTERS)
British model Naomi Campbell (L) and former South African president Nelson
Mandela before his press conference in Barcelona June 30, 2001. Campbell and
Nelson Mandela will attend a show called "Frock and Roll" this evening which
will benefit Mandela's childrens' charity.      PP03070060

GN - RTRK7SL
Naomi Campbell (REUTERS)
Former President Nelson Mandela and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger hold a
symbolic "Flame of Hope" at a ceremony outside Mandela's old prison
cell on Robben Island. July 12, 2001. The event was part of the Special
Olympics African Hope 2001 campaign which aims to reach out to athletes
with mental retardation accross Africa.

MH/GB - RTR14ASP
Arnold Schwarzenegger (REUTERS)

2002

Former South African President Nelson Mandela (2-L) listens to New York
City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) as actors Robert DeNiro (C) and Hugh
Grant (R) sit with him at an event at New York's City Hall to launch
the First Annual Tribeca Film Festival, May 8, 2002. The festival,
which will showcase world premiere and independent films, was
co-founded by DeNiro and Jane Rosenthall and will open with the
premiere of the film "About a Boy" starring Hugh Grant. REUTERS/Mike
Segar

MS/HK - RTR4W5N
Michael Bloomberg, Robert De Niro, Hugh Grant (REUTERS/Mike Segar)
Irish rock star Bono (R) and Former South African President Nelson Mandela
pose after they met at Mandela's resident at Houghton in Johannesburg May
25, 2002. U.S.Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Bono are on a three-day
visit to South Africa during a four nation African tour.      PP03070060
REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya

JN/AA - RTR5MLS
Bono (REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
U.S. talk show personality Oprah Winfrey with former South African
President Nelson Mandela during the Agenda for Earth Turning Ceremony
for The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa in
Henley on Klip south of Johannesburg December 6,2002. REUTERS/Juda
Ngwenya

JN/JV - RTREXUC
Oprah Winfrey (REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)

2003

Former South African President Nelson Mandela chats with England soccer
captain David Beckham at Nelson Mandela's Foundation office in Johannesburg
May 21,2003. England will play a friendly match against South Africa in
Durban tommorrow. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya   PP03090058

JN/JV - RTR13N0I
David Beckham (REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
Nelson Mandela poses for photographers with singer Beyonce Knowles (R) and
other performers during a visit to Robben Island Prison near Cape Town,
November 28, 2003. Knowles will perform with a host of other stars at the
"46664" Aids benefit concert on November 29. "46664" refers to the prison
number allocated to Mandela during his long incarceration on the Island.
PP03110103   Pictures of the month November 2003.      REUTERS/Mike
Hutchings

MH/CRB - RTR7U26
Beyonce Knowles (REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

2004

Former South African president Nelson Mandela (L) meets with U.S. boxing promoter Don King at Nelson Mandela's Foundation in Johannesburg May 24, 2004. King was a guest of honour in a five-bout programme which was staged by South Africa's Rodney Berman of Golden Gloves at Carnival City in Brakpan last Saturday. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya  JN/CRB - RTRWZII
Don King (REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
Former South African President Nelson Mandela holds hand with Hollywood actor and renowned rap star Will Smith.  Former South African President Nelson Mandela (R) holds hands with Hollywood actor and renowned rap star Will Smith at the Mandela Foundation offices in Johannesburg September 16,2004.Smith is in South Africa to promote his latest film 'I-Robot', which opens on Friday. REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya - RTRAYQA
Will Smith (REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
South Africa's former President Mandela holds onto former pop star Lennox during the launch of the book "46664" in London.  South Africa's former President Nelson Mandela (2nd L) holds onto former pop star Annie Lennox (R) while rock band Queen's guitarist Brian May (L) and singer Yusuf Islam smile during the launch of the book "46664" in London November 25, 2004. The book 46664, Mandela's prison number, is being sold to raise awareness and inspire acts to fight HIV/AIDS. REUTERS/Matt Dunham - RTRGPGY
Annie Lennox and Yusuf Islam (REUTERS/Matt Dunham)

2005

U.S. President George W. Bush meets with former South African President Nelson Mandela in the Oval Office of the White House, May 17, 2005. Mandela yesterday said that he backs Bush's call for global "liberty" but disagrees with some of his methods. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque  KL/HB - RTRBFN3
George W. Bush (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

2006

Black Eyed Peas band members, left to right, Fergie, Taboo and William, meet with former President, Nelson Mandela, second from right, in Johannesburg, Monday, May 29, 2006. The band performed at a benefit concert in Johanensburg Sunday. (AP Photo/Russel Roberts)
The Black Eyed Peas (AP Photo/Russel Roberts)

2007

2008

Former South African President, Nelson Mandela and Oscar Pistorius
Former South African President, Nelson Mandela with Oscar Pistorius, South Africa - 03 Oct 2008
Former South African President, Nelson Mandela congratulates Oscar Pistorius after winning three gold medals at the Beijing Paralympics
 (Rex Features via AP Images)
Oscar Pistorius (AP Images)

2009

2010

2011

Michelle Obama and former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa
Michelle Obama meets Nelson Mandela at Mandela's home in Houghton, South Africa - 21 Jun 2011
 (Rex Features via AP Images)
Michelle Obama (AP / Nelson Mandela Foundation)

2012

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Nelson Mandela, 94, former president of South Africa, at his home in Qunu, South Africa, August 6, 2012. Clinton praised the "beautiful" smile of her friend Mandela when they met at his country home on Monday during her multi-nation trade and security tour through Africa. Mandela, in failing health, has only seen a few visitors outside his family in recent years. During his 94th birthday celebration last month, the anti-apartheid leader met Hillary's husband and former U.S. President Bill Clinton. REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin/Pool (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: POLITICS) - RTR369GI
Hillary Clinton (REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin)

2013

Dies in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa

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