NORMAN — 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.