Nelson Mandela: 10 surprising facts you probably didn't know
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
- He had a cameo in a Spike Lee film
- There's a nuclear particle named after him
- His other passion was boxing
- He favorite dish was tripe
Send us your stories, memories and photographs of the Nobel Peace prize winner and former South African president.
(CNN) -- He was loved and admired the world over, profiled in books and movies, and showered with awards and accolades. But even the most public of personalities have little-known facts buried in their biographies.
Here are 10 surprising facts you probably didn't know about Nelson Mandela:
1. He lived up to his name: Mandela's birth name was Rolihlahla. In his Xhosa tribe, the name means pulling the branch of a tree or troublemaker. (The name "Nelson" was given to him by his teacher on his first day of elementary school. It's not clear why she chose that particular name. It was the 1920s, and African children were given English names so colonial masters could pronounce them easily).
2. He had a cameo in a Spike Lee film: He had a big part in Spike Lee's 1992 biopic "Malcolm X." At the very end of the movie, he plays a teacher reciting Malcolm X's famous speech to a room full of Soweto school kids. But the pacifist Mandela wouldn't say "by any means necessary." So Lee cut back to footage of Malcolm X to close out the film.
Nelson Mandela, the prisoner-turned-president who reconciled South Africa after the end of apartheid, died on Thursday, December 5, according to the country's president, Jacob Zuma. Mandela was 95.
The evolution of Nelson Mandela
3. There's a woodpecker named after him: From Cape Town to California, streets named after Mandela abound. But he's also been the subject of some rather unusual tributes. Last year, scientists named a prehistoric woodpecker after him: Australopicus nelsonmandelai. In 1973, the physics institute at Leeds University named a nuclear particle the 'Mandela particle.'
4. He married a first lady: Before tying the knot with Mandela on his 80th birthday, Graca Machel was married to Mozambique President Samora Machel. Her marriage to Mandela after her husband's death means she has been the first lady of two nations.
5. He was a master of disguise: When Mandela was eluding authorities during his fight against apartheid, he disguised himself in various ways, including as a chauffeur. The press nicknamed him "the Black Pimpernel" because of his police evasion tactics. "I became a creature of the night. I would keep to my hideout during the day, and would emerge to do my work when it became dark," he says in his biography, "Long Walk to Freedom."
6. A bloody sport intrigued him: Besides politics, Mandela's other passion was boxing. "I did not like the violence of boxing. I was more interested in the science of it - how you move your body to protect yourself, how you use a plan to attack and retreat, and how you pace yourself through a fight," he says in his biography.
7. His favorite dish is probably not yours: He's been wined and dined by world leaders. But what Mandela loved eating most was tripe. Yup, the stomach lining of farm animals.
8. He quit his day job: He studied law at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and opened the nation's first black law firm in the city in 1952.
9. He was on the U.S. terror watch list: Mandela wasn't removed from the U.S. terror watch list until 2008 -- at age 89. He and other members of the African National Congress were placed on it because of their militant fight against apartheid.
10. He drew his inspiration from a poem: While he was in prison, Mandela would read William Ernest Henley's "Invictus" to fellow prisoners. The poem, about never giving up, resonated with Mandela for its lines "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." You may know it from the movie by the same name starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela.
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December 15, 2013 -- Updated 1728 GMT (0128 HKT)
As 95 candles glowed in the background, mourners gathered for Nelson Mandela's state funeral Sunday.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
One candle burns for each year of Nelson Mandela's life, as family, friends, dignitaries and celebrities gather in his ancestral home, Qunu.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 1036 GMT (1836 HKT)
CNN's Robyn Curnow is inside the Mandela family compound in Qunu as the state funeral service is ongoing.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
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December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0350 GMT (1150 HKT)
Not only is Nelson Mandela the former president of South Africa, but he is also a father, grandfather and even a great-grandfather.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0413 GMT (1213 HKT)
Nelson Mandela once said his wife, Graca Machel, makes him "bloom like a flower."
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0849 GMT (1649 HKT)
South African pays tribute and thanks Nelson Mandela at the former leader's funeral in Qunu.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0845 GMT (1645 HKT)
South African President Jacob Zuma sings at the funeral of Nelson Mandela.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0725 GMT (1525 HKT)
Anti-apartheid veteran Ahmed Kathrada spent 26 years imprisoned with his close friend and confidant Nelson Mandela.
December 15, 2013 -- Updated 0408 GMT (1208 HKT)
The coffin carrying Nelson Mandela's body arrived Saturday in his ancestral village of Qunu, where he'll be buried.
December 14, 2013 -- Updated 2128 GMT (0528 HKT)
Crowds gather as Nelson Mandela's funeral convoy arrives at Mthatha Airport in South Africa's Eastern Cape.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1932 GMT (0332 HKT)
Beloved icon Nelson Mandela will be laid to rest on the farm where he grew up. CNN's Robyn Curnow gives an inside look.
December 13, 2013 -- Updated 1644 GMT (0044 HKT)
It might be timely to put aside out-of-date and ill-informed views of Africa, and see it the way Africans seem to: With a high level of optimism.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Mandela emerged from prison to lead his country out of racist apartheid rule with a message of reconciliation that inspired the world.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1632 GMT (0032 HKT)
The late South African President reflects on his imprisonment and his fight against apartheid.
December 10, 2013 -- Updated 1457 GMT (2257 HKT)
Nelson Mandela, hailed for leading South Africa out of apartheid, wanted to be remembered as part of a collective and not in isolation.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1803 GMT (0203 HKT)
From revolutionary to revered statesman, Nelson Mandela left his inspirational mark on the world.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2324 GMT (0724 HKT)
The only known footage of Nelson Mandela while at Robben Prison shows inside his cell and the former president in 1977.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1745 GMT (0145 HKT)
Mandela spent almost three decades in jail. But he had two Indian goddesses and a 17th century playwright for company.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1252 GMT (2052 HKT)
He was loved and admired the world over, profiled in books and movies. But even he has little-known facts buried in his biographies.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2300 GMT (0700 HKT)
April 27, 1994, was the crowning moment in Nelson Mandela's life -- the day South Africa held its first elections open to citizens of every race.
From a village birth, to political activism, to prison and emergence as a worldwide leader.
December 5, 2013 -- Updated 2340 GMT (0740 HKT)
"No one is born hating another person ..." and more from Nelson Mandela in his own words
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1347 GMT (2147 HKT)
"Sport has the power to change the world," Nelson Mandela once said -- and eloquently supported his claim.
June 27, 2013 -- Updated 0148 GMT (0948 HKT)
Browse through intimate images of Nelson Mandela, including the earliest known photograph believed to be taken in 1938.
December 6, 2013 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
The Special AKA's "Free Nelson Mandela" became anti-apartheid anthem, and led to Mandela's release from prison after 27 years.
How will you remember Mandela? Send us your stories, memories and photographs.
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