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Born July 18

Nelson Mandela was a hero to many as he fought for racial equality in South Africa. Born to Xhosa royalty, he became a lawyer and an activist. When nonviolent tactics proved ineffective, he began using sabotage, which led to his arrest and conviction for conspiracy to overthrow the state. He was given a life sentence, and with his imprisonment, his international fame began to grow. During his 27-year imprisonment, peace lovers around the world rallied around the "Free Mandela!" slogan. After his release, Mandela helped negotiate the end of apartheid and was elected South Africa's first black president. His activism toward equality continued after his presidency and throughout his life. We remember Mandela's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who were born this day in history.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including actress Rebecca Shaeffer.

1941: Lonnie Mack, U.S. blues, rock, and country guitarist-singer who was a pioneer in rock guitar solos, is born in West Harrison, Indiana.

1938: Ian Stewart, Scottish keyboardist who co-founded the Rolling Stones, is born in Pittenweem, Scotland.

When Brian Jones advertised for musicians to start an R&B band with him, piano player Stewart was the first to answer the call. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards joined shortly thereafter, and the group played their first gig July 12, 1962, as the Rollin' Stones. With the addition of Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, the sextet was complete. But the band's manager thought six was too many, and that the older, burlier Stewart did not fit the image. Stu was out of the lineup, but agreed to stay on to help out. Read more

 

 

 

1937: Hunter S. Thompson, U.S. journalist and author who founded the gonzo journalism movement and wrote books including "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," is born in Louisville, Kentucky.

1934: Darlene Conley, U.S. actress who played Sally Spectra on "The Bold and the Beautiful," is born in Chicago Heights, Illinois.

Conley had been a fixture of the show, playing larger-than-life redhead Sally Spectra for 19 years. Spectra charmed fans with her scrappiness … and her ongoing friendly feud with rival clothing designer Stephanie Forrester. Their spats often ended with Spectra taking an unplanned swim, and the fans loved it. Read more

 

 

 

1930: Burt Kwouk, British actor known for his role as Cato in the Pink Panther movies, is born in Warrington, England.

1929: Screamin' Jay Hawkins, U.S. singer and pianist known for hits including "I Put a Spell on You," is born in Cleveland, Ohio.

The singer was one of the earliest shock rockers, shouting and groaning his way through songs, and performing bizarre antics in live shows long before it was the hard-rock norm. When Hawkins was emerging from a coffin onstage, the metalheads who would one day bite off the heads of bats were still in short pants. It all started with a song that was originally intended to be a tender ballad. But when, in 1956, Hawkins and his band recorded a drunken version of the song, something new – and lasting – was created. "I Put a Spell on You" was like nothing that came before it. Read more

 

 

1926: Margaret Laurence, Canadian novelist whose works include "The Diviners" and "A Jest of God," is born in Neepawa, Manitoba.

1918: Nelson Mandela, South African lawyer and politician who helped bring down apartheid and was elected South Africa's first black president, is born in Mvezo, South Africa.

In 1994, South Africa held its first Democratic election open to all races. Mandela, running with the ANC, won the presidency with 62 percent of the vote. He was the first black president of South Africa in the first election in which blacks were allowed to vote. Mandela voluntarily served only one term as president, in order to set a precedent for the regular election of new leaders. Read more

 

 

 

1913: Red Skelton, U.S. actor and comedian whose "The Red Skelton Show" was one of the most popular early TV programs, is born in Vincennes, Indiana.

Image via Library of CongressThe legendary comedian delighted audiences with his clowning, molding himself into character after character, and creating lots of laughs along the way. So great was his skill at inhabiting a role – and making it funny – that he earned high praise from one of the previous generation's top comics, Groucho Marx: "With one prop, a soft battered hat, he successfully converted himself into an idiot boy, a peevish old lady, a teetering-tottering drunk, an overstuffed clubwoman, a tramp, and any other character that seemed to suit his fancy. No grotesque makeup, no funny clothes, just Red." Read more

 

 

 

1911: Hume Cronyn, Canadian-American actor whose films include "Lifeboat" and "Cocoon," who was the husband of actress Jessica Tandy, is born in London, Ontario.

1909: Harriet Nelson, U.S. actress and singer known best for starring on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," is born in Des Moines, Iowa.

1908: Lupe Velez, Mexican-American actress known for the "Mexican Spitfire" series of movies, is born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.

1811: William Makepeace Thackeray, English novelist known best for "Vanity Fair," is born in Calcutta, British India.

Click to discover notable people who died this day in history including actress Rebecca Shaeffer.