They lined the streets from Roxbury to the Esplanade that beautiful Saturday morning in 1990, straining to grab a glimpse of the world leader who was so revered, but, until then, always from a distance. When Nelson Mandela came to Boston, he wasn’t yet president of anything. He was the world’s most celebrated ex-prisoner, on a six-week tour to exhort the world not to let up on the pressure to end the evil of apartheid.
Boston was a natural destination for Mandela, and he came at an important time. The area had been an early and energetic hub of the divestment movement and was a great place to spread the gospel — and raise money for the African National Congress.