The man who spent 27 years imprisoned on South Africa's Robben Island because of his stance against apartheid - and who later became South Africa's first black president at the age of 75 - died Thursday, Dec. 5.
South Africa's current president Jacob Zuma, made the announcement in a nationally televised address.
"Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss."
The Nobel Peace Prize winner was born Rolihlahla Mandela in a village near Umtata in the Transkei on July 18, 1918. His name means "troublemaker."
Mandela served as president from 1994 until 1999, when he retired and became an advocate for a number of human rights organizations and also a spokesman for the fight against AIDS.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion" he wrote in his autobiography.
"People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for loves comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
President Obama called him one of the "most influential, courageous and profoundly good" people to ever have lived.
"We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth," said Obama in a Fox 5 Report. "He no longer belongs to us. He belongs with the ages."
Mandela battled health issues in recent years, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.
How will you remember Nelson Mandela?