July 18, 1918 — Born to Hendry Mphakanyiswa, a Thembu chief, and Nosekeni Qunu in the Umtata district of the Transkei, at a time when virtually all of Africa was under European colonial rule.
1940 — Expelled from University of Fort Hare, a leading institution for blacks, for role in a student strike.
1942 — Joins African National Congress, South Africa’s main campaigner for black equality.
1943 — Receives BA from Fort Hare after completing correspondence courses through University of South Africa.
June 4, 1948 — National Party, dominated by white Dutch-descended Afrikaners, is elected to power and begins installing apartheid, a system of complete racial segregation. It will rule without interruption for 46 years.
1952 — Mandela leads the Defiance Campaign, encouraging people to break racial separation laws. Convicted under Suppression of Communism Act, banned from attending gatherings and leaving Johannesburg. Passes exam to qualify as an attorney and, with Tambo, forms the first black law partnership in the country.
1958 — Marries social worker Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela after divorcing Evelyn Mase, his first wife.
1961 — Helps establish ANC guerrilla wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation.
April 20, 1964 — Charged with sabotage, Mandela delivered a statement during his trial in Pretoria that revealed the depth of his resolve in the fight against apartheid and his willingness to lay down his life in an effort to end white racist rule.
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people,” Mandela said. “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.”
Two months later, he and seven other defendants were sentenced to life in prison.
June 12, 1964 — Mandela and six others are sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to notorious Robben Island to serve their sentences.
1973 — Refuses a government offer of release on condition he agrees to a kind of exile in his native Transkei.
Feb. 10, 1985 — Another release offer, on condition he renounce violence. In fiery refusal, read by his daughter Zindzi at a rally, Mandela says burden is on the government to renounce violence, end apartheid and negotiate.
1985 — While in hospital for prostate surgery he is visited by Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee, the beginning of a political and diplomatic process that will lead on Dec. 9, 1988, to his transfer to better prison conditions on the mainland, north of Cape Town.
July 5, 1989 — Meets President P.W. Botha.
Dec. 13, 1989 — Meets Botha’s successor, F.W. de Klerk.
Feb. 2, 1990 — At the opening of Parliament, de Klerk announces the legalization of all political organizations including the African National Congress.
Feb. 10, 1990 — De Klerk announces Mandela will be released the next day.
Feb. 11, 1990 — Mandela walked out of South Africa’s Victor Verster prison near Cape Town after 27 years in captivity, holding hands with his wife, Winnie. He held up his fist and smiled broadly. Mandela’s release after so long was almost inconceivable for deliriously happy supporters who erupted in cheers as hundreds of journalists pressed forward. The world watched the electrifying occasion live on television. Because of Mandela’s decades-long confinement, few people knew what he looked like or had seen a recent photograph. Mandela said he was astounded by the reception.
“When I was among the crowd I raised my right fist, and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for twenty-seven years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy,” Mandela wrote.
He also recalled: “As I finally walked through those gates to enter a car on the other side, I felt – even at the age of seventy-one – that my life was beginning anew.”
Oct. 15, 1993 — Mandela and De Klerk share Nobel Peace Prize.
May 10, 1994 — Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa after democratic elections, taking the oath of office at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the South African capital. Leaders and other dignitaries from around the world attended the historic occasion, which offered many South Africans another chance to celebrate in the streets.
At the close of his inauguration speech, Mandela said: ”Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world,” he said. “Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement! God bless Africa! Thank you.”
June 24, 1995: Mandela strode onto the field at the Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg, wearing South African colors and bringing the overwhelmingly white crowd of more than 60,000 to its feet. They chanted “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!” as the president congratulated the victorious home team in a moment that symbolized racial reconciliation.
Mandela’s decision to wear the Springbok emblem, the symbol once hated by blacks, conveyed the message that rugby, for so long shunned by the black population, was now for all South Africans.
The moment was portrayed in “Invictus,” a Hollywood movie directed by Clint Eastwood. The film tells the story of South Africa’s transformation under Mandela’s leadership through the prism of sport.
March 19, 1996 — Mandela granted a divorce from Winnie.
July 18, 1998 — Mandela weds former Mozambican first lady Graca Machel on his 80th birthday.
June 16, 1999 — Mandela retires after one term, a rarity among African presidents, but continues to be active in causes promoting world peace, supporting children and fighting AIDS.
Jan. 30, 2003 — In speech, calls U.S. President George W. Bush arrogant and shortsighted for ignoring the U.N. on Iraq.
June 1, 2004 — Announces retirement from public life.
July 11, 2010 — A smiling Mandela waved to the crowd at the Soccer City stadium at the closing ceremony of the World Cup, whose staging in South Africa allowed the country, and the continent, to shine on one of the world’s biggest stages. Mandela appeared frail as he was driven in a golf cart alongside his wife, Graca Machel.
Mandela had kept a low profile during the month-long tournament, deciding against attending the opener June 11 after the death of his great-grand daughter in a traffic accident following a World Cup concert.
The former president did not address the crowd on that emotional day in the stadium. It was his last public appearance.
June 21, 2011 — Mandela meets at his home with Michelle Obama, her two daughters and other Obama relatives.
December 2012 — Mandela spends nearly three weeks in a hospital, where he is treated for a lung infection and has a procedure to remove gallstones.
April 29, 2013 — State television broadcasts footage of a visit by President Jacob Zuma and other ANC leaders to Mandela at his Johannesburg home. Zuma said at the time that Mandela was in good shape, but the footage – the first public images of Mandela in nearly a year – showed him silent and unresponsive, even when Zuma tried to hold his hand.
June 8, 2013 — The government says Mandela is admitted to a hospital with a recurring lung infection. Officials describe his condition as serious but stable.
December 5, 2013 — Mandela dies at age 95.