1947 — Mandela elected secretary of youth league.
1950 — Becomes president of ANC Youth League, elected to ANC national executive committee
1952 — Leads the Defiance Campaign, encouraging people to break racial separation laws. Convicted under Suppression of Communism Act, banned from attending gatherings and leaving Johannesburg. With Tambo, forms the first black law partnership in the country.
1956 — Charged with treason, along with 155 other South Africans of all races who had supported the Freedom Charter calling for a non-racial democracy and a socialist-based economy. They were all acquitted after a four-year trial.
1958 — Marries social worker Winnie Nomzamo Madikizela after divorcing Evelyn.
1961 — Helps establish ANC guerrilla wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe, or Spear of the Nation. He would say later the decision to take up arms came after a "sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after years of tyranny, exploitation and oppression of my people by whites."
January 1962 — Leaves the country for military training and to gather support for Umkhonto weSizwe.
July 1962 — Returns to South Africa via Botswana and drives to Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. Travels to KwaZulu-Natal to report back to ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli and other comrades.
Aug. 5, 1962: Arrested near Howick. Charged with illegally leaving the country and incitement to strike and sentenced to five years' hard labor.
Nov. 7, 1962 — Sentenced to five years for incitement and leaving the country illegally and assigned the prisoner number 19476/62.
May 1963 — Sent to Robben Island.
October, 1963 — Charged with sabotage in Rivonia Trial.
April 20, 1964 — At a time when African colonies are becoming independent makes his speech from the dock in which he says he is "prepared to die" for a democratic South Africa.