CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by state and local officials on what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 96th birthday to unveil the newly-designated Mandela Road in Chicago. The stretch of Cicero Avenue from Roosevelt Road to West Grand Avenue will now also bear a designation in honor of the late South African President and world civil rights leader Nelson Mandela.
“Nelson Mandela was a hero of democracy and championed the struggle for basic human rights and dignity,” Governor Quinn said. “Now, those traveling this state highway on Chicago’s west side will be reminded of Mandela’s lifelong journey that continues to have a profound effect on the world we live in today.”
The Illinois General Assembly officially designated a portion of Cicero Avenue, also known as Illinois Route 50, as Mandela Road in House Joint Resolution 89, which was sponsored by State Representative La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago) and State Senator Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is erecting signs in honor of the designation at a series of intersections along Cicero Avenue. Residents and businesses along the route will retain their official Cicero Avenue addresses.
Mandela Road joins other honorary Chicago street designations including those named for Emmett Till, Studs Terkel, Harold Washington, Mother Theresa and Michael Krzyzewski or “Coach K.”
Nelson Mandela was born July 18, 1918 and, after studying law, became active in the African National Congress (ANC) and other organizations that opposed colonial rule and apartheid politics. Following numerous arrests in the 1950s and early 60s for anti-government activities, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1962 and served 27 years before an international lobbying effort helped secure his 1990 release.
Mandela and others negotiated with South African President F.W. de Klerk to abolish apartheid and hold elections in 1994 that were open to all South Africans. In those elections Mandela led the ANC to victory and became South Africa's first black president, serving until 1999. His government dismantled the apartheid legacy and tackled institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality. After leaving government, Mandela focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation. He died December 5, 2013 and his funeral was attended by more than 100 world leaders and tens of thousands of mourners.