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

December 5, 2013
December 5, 2013

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

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Ted Kennedy(AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis(AP Photo/Peter Southwick)
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George H. W. Bush(AP Photo/Doug Mills)
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Margaret Thatcher(AP Photo/Cleaver)
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Jesse Jackson(Frederick Watkins, Jr. / AP)

1991

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A wax double at Madame Tussaud’s(AP Photo/Gill Allen)

1992

1993

1994

Elected president of South Africa in April

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Whitney Houston(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)

1995

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Pope John Paul II(AP Photo/John Moore)

1996

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Sidney Poitier(AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
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Michael Jackson(REUTERS)
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The Dalai Lama(AP Photo/Sasa Kralj)
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Tony Blair(REUTERS)

1997

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Bill Cosby(REUTERS)
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Princess Diana(REUTERS)
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Barney(REUTERS)
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Evander Holyfield(REUTERS)
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Prince Charles, Scary Spice, and Ginger Spice(REUTERS)

1998

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Bill Clinton(REUTERS)
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Diana Ross(REUTERS)
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Queen Elizabeth II(REUTERS)
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Stevie Wonder(REUTERS)
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Fidel Castro(REUTERS)
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Tiger Woods(REUTERS)

1999

Leaves office in June

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Boris Yeltsin(REUTERS)
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Muammar Gaddafi(REUTERS)
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Bill Gates(REUTERS)

2000

2001

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Lennox Lewis(REUTERS)
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Naomi Campbell(REUTERS)
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Arnold Schwarzenegger(REUTERS)

2002

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Michael Bloomberg, Robert De Niro, Hugh Grant(REUTERS/Mike Segar)
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Bono(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
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Oprah Winfrey(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)

2003

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David Beckham(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
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Beyonce Knowles(REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

2004

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Don King(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
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Will Smith(REUTERS/Juda Ngwenya)
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Annie Lennox and Yusuf Islam(REUTERS/Matt Dunham)

2005

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George W. Bush(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

2006

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The Black Eyed Peas(AP Photo/Russel Roberts)

2007

2008

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Oscar Pistorius(AP Images)

2009

2010

2011

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Michelle Obama(AP / Nelson Mandela Foundation)

2012

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Hillary Clinton(REUTERS/Jacquelyn Martin)

2013

Dies in a hospital in Pretoria, South Africa

Read This Next: The wisdom of Nelson Mandela: quotes from the most inspiring leader of the 20th century

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