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 — At a time when many African colonies have become independent and Mandela is on trial for sabotage, he declares from the dock that he is “prepared to die” for a democratic South Africa.
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 walks out of prison, hand in hand with wife Winnie, to cheering crowds.
Oct. 15, 1993 — Mandela and de Klerk share Nobel Peace Prize.
May 10, 1994 — Mandela inaugurated as South Africa’s first black president after ANC wins South Africa’s first all-race election.
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 — Mandela waves to the crowd at Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg as South Africa bids farewell to the 2010 soccer World Cup. Driven in a small golf cart and seated alongside wife, Graca Machel, the smiling, warmly dressed Mandela is welcomed by a thunderous mix of vuvuzelas and roars from the crowd.
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.