America’s first family toured Robben Island, where Mandela was held in a small cell for 18 of his 27 years in prison as a political prisoner under the white leaders who ruled the nation. Obama has been before but it’s his family’s first visit.
They were taken to a bleak lime quarry, where 34 ANC leaders, including Nelson Mandela were prisoners, enduring hours of backbreaking and futile work.
In the bushes, a small, wooden bench next to a wooden lattice could be seen. That's where Mandela hid the manuscript for A Long Walk to Freedom as he he wrote it.
A cement watchtower with rusting shutters stood above the quarry. A cave cut into the wall was where the prisoners had lunch and used a toilet bucket.
Along one wall are 17 cells, each with one window that is covered by vertical, white bars. The cells are tiny, barely wide enough for someone to lay down. In Mandela's cell, there was a stall with a toilet bucket on top, and a mattress low to the floor with pillows and a brown blanket.
Former prisoner Ahmed Kathrada, who served his 18 years alongside Mandela, was the Obama's guide.
The President and First Lady walked into the courtyard where a visitors book was waiting on a simple desk. He wrote for about three minutes.
"On behalf of our family we're deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice and refused to yield. The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit."
Barack Obama and Michelle Obama30 June 2013