Leaders around the world are paying tribute to Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president who fought apartheid both as a prisoner of that system of white rule and later as a political leader.
In nearly seven decades spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela inspired and challenged the world to stand up for others.
As word of Mandela's death spread, current and former presidents, athletes and entertainers, and people around the world spoke about the life and legacy of the former South African leader.
From Harlem to Hollywood, Paris to Beijing, people hailed Mandela's indomitable courage in the face of adversity as an inspiration for all. In a testament to his universal appeal, political leaders of various stripes joined activists in paying tribute to Mandela as a heroic force for peace and reconciliation.
Some knew Mandela personally while many only knew him from afar, but they shared how they drew inspiration from his strength and looked to live his message of continuing the struggle against social injustice and for human rights.
Counting himself among the millions influenced by Nelson Mandela, US President Barack Obama mourned the death of the anti-apartheid icon with whom he shares the distinction of being his nation's first black president.
"He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages," Obama said in a somber appearance at the White House Thursday (local time).
"I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," he continued. "And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set."
Obama, the first African-American president of the United States, declared that he world has lost an influential, courageous and 'profoundly good' man with the death of the anti-apartheid icon.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, who fought for human rights advances around the globe during his administration, said he and wife Rosalyn were saddened by the death of the anti-apartheid icon.
"The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world's leading democracies," Carter said in a statement.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the world had lost "a visionary leader, a courageous voice for justice and a clear moral compass." Both Annan and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were part of Mandela's group of statesmen known as The Elders.
"God was so good to us in South Africa by giving us Nelson Mandela to be our president at a crucial moment in our history," Tutu said. "He inspired us to walk the path of forgiveness and reconciliation and so South Africa did not go up in flames."
President Xi Jinping of China, which supported apartheid's opponents throughout the Cold War, praised Mandela's victory in the anti-apartheid struggle and his contribution to "the cause of human progress."
For Chinese rights activists, Mandela's death served as a reminder that one of their own symbols of freedom, Nobel Peace prize laureate Liu Xiaobo, remained imprisoned by Chinese authorities.
"This moment magnifies how evil the current regime is," Beijing activist Hu Jia said.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Nelson Mandela as a "unique political figure at a unique moment" in history.
"Through his leadership, he guided the world into a new era of politics in which black and white, developing and developed, north and south, despite all the huge differences in wealth and opportunity, stood for the first time together on equal terms," Blair said.
"Through his dignity, grace and the quality of his forgiveness, he made racism everywhere not just immoral but stupid; something not only to be disagreed with, but to be despised. In its place he put the inalienable right of all humankind to be free and to be equal."
Prince William and his wife, Kate, were attending the London film premiere of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" when Mandela's death was announced.
"We were just reminded of what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was," William said.
The heir to the throne, Prince Charles, said: "Mr Mandela was the embodiment of courage and reconciliation. He was also a man of great humour and had a real zest for life. With his passing, there will be an immense void not only in his family's lives, but also in those of all South Africans and the many others whose lives have been changed through his fight for peace, justice and freedom."
"The world has lost an inspired leader and a great man. My family and I are profoundly saddened and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."
" As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go," said the US actor Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Mandela in the 2009 film, "Invictus."
Mandela's message will not disappear. It will continue to inspire those fighting for freedom and to give confidence to people defending just causes and universal rights," said French President Francois Hollande, who is hosting dozens of African leaders this week for a summit on peace and security.
In New York City's Harlem neighborhood, artist Franco Gaskin, 85, stood before a mural featuring Mandela he had painted on a storefront gate almost 20 years ago. He remembered a Mandela visit there in 1990. "It was dynamic, everyone was so electrified to see him in Harlem," Gaskin said. "I idolized him so much. He leaves a legacy that all of us should follow."
Myanmar pro-democracy leader and fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi paid tribute to Mandela as a "great human being who raised the standard of humanity."
"I would like to express my extreme grief at the passing away of the man who stood for human rights and for equality in this world," she said at a forum. "He also made us understand that we can change the world. We can change the world by changing attitudes."
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh compared Mandela to his country's own icon for the struggle for freedom, independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi.
"A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India's loss as South Africa's. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott described Mandela as one of the great figures of the 20th century who had healed a broken country. "While the world may never see another Nelson Mandela, he has inspired countless men and women throughout the world to live more courageous and honest lives," Abbott said in a statement.
At the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Ky., on display is a photograph of the U.S. boxing great with Mandela, their hands clenched into fists as if they're boxing.
"He made us realize, we are our brother's keeper and that our brothers come in all colors," Ali said in a statement. "What I will remember most about Mr. Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge."
Mandela was mourned in Cuba, which has long felt a close bond with the late South African leader. Havana considered him a hero for supporting it amid U.S. and international criticism.
"Exceptional human being, example for the world, Father of multiracial South Africa, the endearing friend of Fidel and Cuba," journalist Juana Carrasco of the Communist youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde said via Twitter. "Long live Mandela!"
In the island nation of Haiti, which became the world's first black republic in 1804 through a successful slave revolt, Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said Mandela won't be forgotten.
"The world has lost a great leader and an inspiration to humanity today," Lamothe said in an email. "We wish the people of South Africa and in particular President Mandela's family our deepest and sincerest condolences - Haiti will never forget this great leader."
TEXT OF OBAMA'S SPEECH
A transcript of Obama's comments from the White House:
"At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, 'I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.'
"And Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real. He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us - he belongs to the ages.
"Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa - and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings - and countries - can change for the better. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives. And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable. As he once said, 'I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.'
"I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid. I studied his words and his writings. The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.
"To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us. His life's work meant long days away from those who loved him the most. And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.
"To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real. A free South Africa at peace with itself - that's an example to the world, and that's Madiba's legacy to the nation he loved.
"We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.
"For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived - a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice. May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace."