Timeline: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela

Here are some key moments in the life of Nelson Mandela.

by Jennie Wood
 

1918 1952 1968 1980 1994 2001 2013
1918
July 18
Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela is born into the Mabida clan. His father is Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa and his mother is Nosekeni Fanny. Mandela's tribal name is Rolihalahm which means troublemaker. He's given an English name, Nelson, later on by a teacher.
1919
 
Mandela's father loses his land and money. The order comes from a white magistrate.
1927
 
Mandela's father dies. Jongintaba Dalindyebo, chief of the Thembu clan, becomes his guardian. Mandela's education is a priority of Jongintaba Dalindyebo.
1937
 
Mandela moves to Healdtown and attends the Wesleyan college in Fort Beaufort, Eastern Cape.
 
He works toward a B.A. at Fort Hare University, in Alice, Eastern Cape. While at Fort Hare, he meets Oliver Tambo, his lifelong friend.
1939
 
Mandela is asked to leave Fort Hare after he participates in the Students' Representative Council boycott against university policies.
To avoid an arranged marriage, he moves to Johannesburg. In Johannesburg, he witnesses apartheid which forbids the black population to own land, travel, or vote.
He completes his B.A. at the University of South Africa through a correspondence course.
1943
 
Mandela joins the African National Congress (ANC).
1944
 
With Oliver Tambo and Walter Sislu, Mandela forms a Youth League branch of the ANC.
He marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase, his first wife. The marriage lasts until 1957 and they have three children.
1948
 
Apartheid spreads across the country when the South African government, led by the National Party, increases the limits the freedoms of black Africans.
1952
He plays a major role in the ANC's Defiance Campaign.
 
Mandela opens South Africa's first black legal firm. The firm provides low-cost or in some cases even free legal services to blacks. Oliver Tambo is his partner in founding and opening the firm.
1955
 
The Congress of the People asks for equal rights by introducing and adopting the Freedom Charter.
1956
Dec. 5
Along with 155 other activists, Mandela is charged with high treason. He is accused of attempting to overthrow the South African government. Known as the Treason Trial, the trial goes from 1956 through 1961. Everyone charged is acquitted.
1957
 
He separates from his first wife, Evelyn Ntoko Mase, after thirteen years.
1958
 
Mandela marries Nomzamo "Winnie" Madikizela. They have two children. They remain married until they separate in 1992. They divorce in 1996.
1959
 
New laws increasing racial segregation are passed by Parliament. The new laws include creating separate lands for black groups throughout the country.
 
The ANC loses military and financial support as its members leave to form the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) with Robert Sobukwe and Potlako Leballo.
1960
 
Police kill 69 protestors who are participating in a peaceful demonstration in what becomes known as the Sharpeville Massacre. The ANC is banned after the incident.
 
Mandela goes into hiding. While in hiding, he forms an underground military group.
1961
 
During the All-In African Conference, Mandela is named the leader of an Umkhontoat guerrilla movement and issues a call to arms.
1962
Aug. 5
After being in hiding for 17 months, Mandela is arrested. He is taken to the Johannesburg Fort.
Oct. 25
He is sentenced to five years in prison, but escapes and goes on the run.
1964
June 12
Mandela is captured. He is accused and convicted of treason and sabotage. At the age of 46, he is sentenced to life in prison. He is sent to Robben Island where he will be held for 18 years.
1965
 
Rhodesia gains its independence. Whites are the only group represented in the new government.
1968
 
Mandela's mother, Nosekeni Fanny, dies. His oldest son is killed in a car accident. He is not allowed to attend either one of the funerals.
1974
 
The United Nations expel Rhodesia over its apartheid policy.
1976
 
More than 600 students are killed in protests at Sharpeville and Soweto.
1977
 
The leader of the Soweto and Sharpeville protests, Steve Biko, is killed while under arrest.
1980
 
Zimbabwe gains its independence.
 
While in exile, Oliver Tambo begins an international campaign for the release of Mandela.