A free society is an “ideal for which I am prepared to die,” Nelson Mandela famously said. On April 20, 1964, instead of testifying during his trial on charges of sabotage, he held a court spellbound for more than four hours. Two months later, Mandela and other activists were sentenced to life in prison.

Upon release on Feb. 11, 1990, Mandela returned to those words again in a speech carefully crafted to inspire a nation but still keep the peace as the apartheid regime crumbled. In the former South African president’s final days, Quartz asked children at the Rosebank Primary School in Johannesburg to return to his most famous oration. Rosebank was once a whites-only school, but today the student body is majority black.

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