Nelson Mandela: A Timeline of A Legend

Lauren Seale

Nelson's Early Life

Nelson Mandela was born on July 18, 1918 in Mvezo, South Africa to Nonqaphi Nosekeni and Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela. He grew up as part of the Madibo clan, and went by the name of Rolihlahla. When he attended a primary school in Qunu, his teacher gave him the name Nelson, as the custom was to give the children Christian names.


Nelson Mandela attended a primary school in Qunu, where he got his name. He then went to a boarding institute and a secondary school of sorts. When he was in college at the University College of Fort Hare for his Bachelor of Arts degree, he was expelled for participating in a student protest. Nelson instead obtained his Bachelor's degree through the University of South Africa. He then attempts to recieve an LLB through the University of Witwatersrand, which he does not achieve. Nelson tries for an LLB through the University of London later, but he was a poor student and didn't finish his degree this time either. At the end of his imprisonment he obtained an LLB through the University of South Africa in 1989.


Nelson Mandela's father died when Nelson was only 12, so he began to work where his father had been employed. Nelson took a job at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni as a ward for the acting king Jongintaba Dalindyebo. He then became a mine security officer in 1941. Nelson became an articled clerk at a law firm after he was fired from the mines. He continued to want to be a lawyer though, and eventually opened the first black law firm in 1952 with Oliver Tambo. It was called Mandela and Tambo. He continued to practice law and eventually became a politician through the African National Conference (ANC).


Nelson was first married to Evelyn Ntoko Mase in 1944. They had four children named Thembekile (1945), Makaziwe (1947, but died at 9 months old from meningitis), Makgatho (1950), and Makaziwe (1954). They separated and eventually divorced in 1958. The same year, Nelson marries Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela. They have two daughters named Zenani (1959) and Zindzi (1960). The couple divorced in 1996. Then, on his 80th birthday, Nelson marries Graca Machel in 1998.

The African National Conference (ANC)

Nelson first began to attend ANC meetings informally in 1942. He joins the ANC in 1943, and he helped co-found the African National Conference Youth League (ANCYL) in 1944. Nelson's acquaintance Anton Lembede became president of the ANCYL, and Nelson was a member of the executive committee. Nelson then was elected secretary of the ANCYL in 1948, and then president of the ANCYL in 1951. Then, on April 8, 1960, the ANC was banned. They continued meeting in an "underground" cell-structured organization and eventually the Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nation, abbreviated MK) was formed, which was a armed branch of the ANC.

This is the Tri-Colored Flag of the ANC.

Nelson and the Apartheid

The apartheid (also known as a partide) was the racial segregation that was faced in South Africa. Nelson had started to gain influence in the ANC at the time of the apartheid. He supported many direct oppositions to the apartheid such as strikes, boycotts, and many other forms of protest. After the ban of the ANC, he leaves the country for military training, but he returns after 6 months.


When Mandela returns from his military training leave of the country, he is arrested near Howick in KwaZulu-Natal in 1962. He is sentenced to 5 years in prison for provoking unlawful behavior and for leaving the country without a passport. He goes to Robben Island until June 12, 1963 when he is returned to Pretoria Local Prison. He then goes to court where he and many other ANC members in a trial that became known as the Rivonia Trial. He is sentenced to life in prison. His mother and son Thembekile both die while he is in prison, and he is not allowed to attend either of their funerals. He was admitted to the hospital for surgery and tuberculosis while he was imprisoned, and was eventually released on February 11, 1990.

This was Mandela's prison cell at Robben Island.


Nelson became the ANC deputy president in 1990, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with FW de Klerk. Then, in 1994 he is elected the president of South Africa. He launches an autobiography and creates the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. He then steps down from one term as president in 1999, and establishes the Nelson Mandela Foundation.


Nelson retired in 1999, and decided to live a quiet family life with less of a public life. Eventually, he returned to his busy public life, working with the Foundation and meeting world leaders and celebrities. However, this busy time did not last very long.


Nelson was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001. At the age of 85, Mandela told that he was "retiring from retirement". His health was failing and he was getting on in years. He stayed with his family and the Foundation discouraged invitations for him to speak and for him to be interviewed. He continued to decline in health, and was admitted to the hospital many times throughout 2012 and 2013. Then, on December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela died of a lung infection surrounded by close friends and family. He will always be remember as a great leader and to many a savior to all of the people who suffered from oppression in South Africa.


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