I wanted to post this earlier this year, during the international period of mourning following the death of South African President Nelson Mandela. I knew this letter existed, but I couldn’t put my hands on it in the papers of President Joe Lesesne. Yesterday I figured out why I couldn’t find it in the Lesesne Papers: It was already on my desk, in a stack of documents that needed some kind of special attention. I had probably pulled it earlier to show to someone, and realized it was one of those items that needs to be filed in a way that an archivist can get to it quickly. The flat file in the storage caddy on my desk, however, is not that kind of filing method. Later today, it’s getting its own folder and note in the Lesesne Papers so that my successors (and me) can find it a little faster.
When some of our students and faculty visited South Africa on an Interim, they saw a letter from Dr. Lesesne to Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, the place where Mandela had been imprisoned for many years. On their return to campus, they inquired if I had a copy of the letter, and much later, when we processed the collection, I found it. It’s posted below, in case anyone is curious.