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 KennedyAP Photo/Charles Krupa
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Jacqueline Kennedy OnassisAP Photo/Peter Southwick
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George H. W. BushAP Photo/Doug Mills
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Margaret ThatcherAP Photo/Cleaver
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Jesse JacksonFrederick Watkins, Jr. / AP

1991

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A wax double at Madame Tussaud’sAP Photo/Gill Allen

1992

1993

1994

Elected president of South Africa in April

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Whitney HoustonREUTERS/Juda Ngwenya

1995

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Pope John Paul IIAP Photo/John Moore

1996

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Sidney PoitierAP Photo / Sasa Kralj
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Michael JacksonREUTERS
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The Dalai LamaAP Photo/Sasa Kralj
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Tony BlairREUTERS

1997

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Bill CosbyREUTERS
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Princess DianaREUTERS
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BarneyREUTERS
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Evander HolyfieldREUTERS
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Prince Charles, Scary Spice, and Ginger SpiceREUTERS

1998

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Bill ClintonREUTERS
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Diana RossREUTERS
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Queen Elizabeth IIREUTERS
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Stevie WonderREUTERS
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Fidel CastroREUTERS
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Tiger WoodsREUTERS

1999

Leaves office in June

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Boris YeltsinREUTERS
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Muammar GaddafiREUTERS
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Bill GatesREUTERS

2000

2001

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Lennox LewisREUTERS
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Naomi CampbellREUTERS
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Arnold SchwarzeneggerREUTERS

2002

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Michael Bloomberg, Robert De Niro, Hugh GrantREUTERS/Mike Segar
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BonoREUTERS/Juda Ngwenya
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Oprah WinfreyREUTERS/Juda Ngwenya

2003

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David BeckhamREUTERS/Juda Ngwenya
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Beyonce KnowlesREUTERS/Mike Hutchings

2004

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Don KingREUTERS/Juda Ngwenya
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Will SmithREUTERS/Juda Ngwenya
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Annie Lennox and Yusuf IslamREUTERS/Matt Dunham

2005

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George W. BushREUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

2006

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The Black Eyed PeasAP Photo/Russel Roberts

2007

2008

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Oscar PistoriusAP Images

2009

2010

2011

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Michelle ObamaAP / Nelson Mandela Foundation

2012

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Hillary ClintonREUTERS/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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