Audiobook Review – Mandela: An Audio History

Note: This review is part of the 2016 Summer Reading Diversity Spotlight.

Mandela: An Audio History
Narrated By: Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Joe Richman
Release Date: February 19, 2014
Publisher: HighBridge Audio
Genre: Nonfiction
Running Time: 1 hour and 17 minutes
Source: Free via Summer 2016 Sync Program
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Recognized as one of the most comprehensive oral histories of apartheid ever broadcast (NPR, BBC, CBC, SABC), Mandela: An Audio History tells the story of the struggle against apartheid through rare sound recordings. The series weaves together more than 50 first-person interviews with an unprecedented collection of archival sound: a rare recording of the 1964 trial that resulted in Mandela’s life sentence; a visit between Mandela and his family secretly taped by a prison guard; marching songs of guerilla soldiers; government propaganda films; and pirate radio broadcasts from the African National Congress (ANC).

Once thought lost forever, Radio Diaries producer Joe Richman unearthed a treasure trove of these historic recordings in the basement archive of the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Ultimately, over 50 hours of archival recordings and many more hours of contemporary interviews with the living witnesses to South Africa’s turbulent history have gone into the creation of one of the most moving audio documentaries ever produced.


Wow. What a history that has been captured here. I am blown away by this overview of  Mandela’s history with apartheid in South Africa which is perhaps the most thorough overview, the best overview of Mandela that I’ve ever come across.

All of the different recordings strewn together (it seems) effortlessly were so powerful – from Mandela in court, fighting for his life, to the cultural songs of the locals, and everything in between, this is the perfect resource for anyone interested in firsthand accounts of all that went down before and during Mandela’s imprisonment, leading up to his day of release.

If you like the Serial Podcast or are one to listen to documentaries rather than watch them, that’s kind of what this audio history felt like. Especially since it’s only just over an hour long, it felt like something that could be on the History Channel.

So, long story short, Mandela: An Audio History is just as compelling as you think and gives us just enough to want to go on our own and do even more research and read even more accounts than we have so far. Because we all know that this audiobook could have been much, much longer. It is disappointing that it’s not but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of learning more about Mandela and the apartheid in South Africa. No matter how much we learn, there’s always more. So let this be just a bit more for you.

Mandela: An Audio History is available today.