Nelson Mandela: Timeline
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, died on Thursday, December 5, 2013. He was 95. Here are the milestone moments in his life.
July 18, 1918
Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela is born in the tiny village of Mvezo, in the hills of South Africa's Eastern Cape. He was given the name Nelson by a schoolteacher but is also sometimes called Madiba, his traditional clan name.
Mandela attends the University of Fort Hare, one of the few higher education facilities for black South Africans at the time. He is expelled after taking part in a boycott with Oliver Tambo, who will become a lifelong friend and fellow anti-apartheid activist.
Mandela joins the African National Congress, a South African political party dedicated to opposing apartheid, South Africa's legal system of racial segregation. Dissatisfied with the ANC and its old-guard politics, Mandela, Tambo and several others formed the Youth League of the African National Congress, hoping to transform the organization into a more radical movement. It was the beginning of Mandela's lifelong commitment to breaking the shackles of segregation in South Africa. That same year, Mandela marries Evelyn Ntoko; the couple will have four children during their 13-year marriage.
Mandela leads the newly launched ANC Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws, a program of nonviolent mass resistance. He is later charged with violating the Suppression of Communism Act.
December 5, 1956
Mandela, along with 155 other political activists, is charged with high treason for his activities against the government. His trial will last five years and end in acquittal.
After his divorce from Evelyn Ntoko, Mandela marries Nomzamo Winifred "Winnie" Madikizela, a young social worker. They have two daughters. "I cannot say for certain if there is such a thing as love at first sight, but I do know that the moment I first glimpsed [at] Winnie Nomzamo, I knew that I wanted to have her as my wife," Mandela wrote in his 1995 autobiography, "Long Walk to Freedom."
March 21, 1960
Sixty-nine unarmed black protesters in the township of Sharpeville are shot to death by police as they and thousands of others demonstrate outside a police station. The Sharpeville Massacre, as it comes to be known, is condemned around the world. The South African government outlaws the ANC after the incident, and Mandela will go underground to form a new military wing of the organization.
Mandela begins organizing the armed struggle against apartheid with the group Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation). He travels in Africa and Europe, studying guerrilla warfare.
In 1962, Mandela returns to South Africa and is arrested and charged with illegal exit of the country and incitement to strike. He is convicted and sentenced to five years in prison. Two years later, while he was still incarcerated, the government convicts him of treason and sentences him to life in prison on Robben Island.
Mandela's mother dies, and the following year, his eldest son is killed in a car accident. He is not allowed to attend either funeral.
Mandela turns 70 the same year he is hospitalized with tuberculosis. He recovers and is sent to Victor Verster Prison, a minimum-security facility where he is given his own quarters and where he can receive additional visitors.
Less than six months into his first term, South African President F.W. De Klerk begins dismantling the apartheid regime by lifting the ban on the ANC and other opposition organizations. Days later, on February 11, Mandela is released from prison after 27 years. His first words are to assure his supporters in the ANC that his release was not part of a deal with the government and to reassure whites that he intends to work toward reconciliation.
Mandela embarks on a world tour, visiting British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the U.S. Congress and President George H.W. Bush.
Mandela is elected president of the ANC during the organization's first national conference inside South Africa since it was banned in 1960. That same year, Winnie Mandela is convicted in the kidnapping of 14-year-old township activist Stompie Seipei, whose decomposed body was found near her home, his throat cut. She is acquitted of murder, and her six-year jail term is reduced on appeal to a fine. A year later, Nelson and Winnie Mandela separate after it is revealed that she was unfaithful during his imprisonment. They divorce in 1996.
December 10, 1993
Nelson Mandela and South Africa's last apartheid president, F.W. de Klerk, share the Nobel Peace Prize. Six moths earlier, South Africa's parties agree to hold the first elections open to all citizens, black and white.
April 29, 1994
Mandela is elected president in the first open election in South African history. He casts his vote for the first time in his life. The next month, he is inaugurated as South Africa's first post-apartheid president.
Two years after his divorce from Winnie, Mandela marries Graca Machel, widow of late Mozambican President Samora Machel. The following year, his presidential term ends and he is succeeded by Deputy President Thabo Mbeki.
November 29, 2003
Mandela gives a speech at Green Point stadium in Cape Town during a fund-raising benefit concert for AIDS awareness. The speech draws 30,000 to 40,000 fans, with multiple celebrities in attendance. The "46664 concert" is the first of several to promote AIDS awareness. 46664 was Mandela's identification number in prison.
January 6, 2005
Mandela announces that his son Makgatho has died of AIDS and that the disease should be given publicity so people will stop viewing it as extraordinary. Later that year, another series of "46664" concerts are held in South Africa and Europe to raise awareness and funds to combat AIDS.
July 18, 2007
On his 89th birthday, Mandela announces the formation of the Elders, a group of global leaders -- including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan -- who have worked to build peace around the world.
July 18, 2009
The Nelson Mandela Foundation creates Mandela Day, to be held every year on his birthday. The purpose of the day is to bring awareness to community service. In November of the same year, the United Nations declares July 18 to be Nelson Mandela International Day.
December 11, 2009
The movie "Invictus," with Morgan Freeman portraying Mandela during his presidential term, comes to theaters. "Invictus" takes place at the start of Mandela's presidency, as he attempts to unite a bitterly divided post-apartheid South Africa in the run-up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Freeman told CNN that capturing Mandela wasn't easy. "You have to have watched him – closely," the actor said. "Walk, talk, nuances of character, things like that."
Mandela skips the opening of the World Cup in South Africa after his 13-year-old great-granddaughter is killed in a car accident as she returns from the World Cup kickoff concert. A month later, he attended the World Cup closing ceremony.
Mandela's extraordinary life experiences are chronicled in a book entitled "Conversations with Myself," based on his prison diaries and personal letters.
The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project launches with the assistance of a .25 million grant from Google. The project helps preserve and digitize thousands of archival documents, including items donated by Mandela himself.
December 12, 2012
Mandela spends the 2012 Christmas holiday in the hospital as a precaution. The 94-year-old leader has received round-the-clock care after an acute respiratory infection a year earlier. More hospital stays and health scares come in the months that follow.
December 5, 2013
Mandela dies at his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, at age 95. "He is now resting. He is now at peace," South African President Jacob Zuma says. "Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father."
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