Nelson Mandela Fast Facts

CNN  — 

Here is a look at the life of Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of South Africa.


Birth date: July 18, 1918

Death date: December 5, 2013

Birth place: Mvezo, Transkei, South Africa

Birth name: Rolihlahla Dalibhunga Mandela

Father: Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, a counselor to the royal house of the Thembu tribe

Mother: Nosekeni Fanny Mandela

Marriages: Graca Machel (July 18, 1998-December 5, 2013, his death); “Winnie” (Madikizela) Mandela (1958-1996, divorce); Evelyn (Ntoko) Mandela (1944-1958, divorce)

Children: with Winnie Mandela: Zindzi, 1960 and Zenani, 1959; with Evelyn Mandela: Makaziwe, 1953; Makgatho, 1950-2005; Makaziwe, 1947-1948; Thembekile, 1946-1969

Education: University of South Africa, BA, 1942

Other Facts

He was given the name Nelson by a school teacher. He was sometimes called Madiba, his traditional clan name.

Mandela was called both “the world’s most famous political prisoner” and “South Africa’s Great Black Hope.”


1941-1943 - Mandela meets Walter Sisulu, who helps him get a job at the law firm of Witkin, Sidelsky, and Eidelman.

1944 - Joins the African National Congress and helps found the ANC Youth League.

1951 - Becomes president of the ANC Youth League.

1952 - Opens the first black law partnership in South Africa with friend Oliver Tambo.

1952 - Leads the newly launched ANC Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws, a program of nonviolent mass resistance.

July 1952 - Mandela is charged with violating the Suppression of Communism Act.

December 5, 1956 - Mandela is among 156 resistance leaders arrested and charged with treason.

April 8, 1960 - The ANC is banned by the South African government.

March 29, 1961 - Mandela is acquitted of treason.

1961 - Mandela begins organizing the armed struggle against apartheid, Umkhonto we Sizwe (Spear of the Nations).

1962 - Travels in Africa and Europe studying military training.

August 5, 1962 - Is arrested on charges of inciting workers to strike and leaving the country without valid travel documents.

November 7, 1962 - Is sentenced to five years in prison for incitement and leaving the country illegally.

June 12, 1964 - Is sentenced to life in prison for sabotage.

1982 - Is transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison.

1988 - Is transferred to Victor Verster Prison.

July 5, 1989 - Meets with President P.W. Botha.

August 15, 1989 - Botha resigns as president and head of the National Party. Frederik Willem de Klerk replaces him and begins dismantling apartheid.

February 11, 1990 - Mandela is released from prison.

July 1991 - Mandela is elected president of the ANC.

1993 - Mandela and de Klerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

May 10, 1994 - Mandela is inaugurated as the first black president of a democratic South Africa.

1999 - Mandela leaves office and establishes the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

January 19, 2000 - Addresses the UN Security Council, appealing for help in ending the brutal civil war between ethnic Hutus and Tutsis in Burundi.

July 25, 2001 - Announces that he has prostate cancer and is undergoing treatment.

November 29, 2003 - Hosts a concert as part of his 46664 campaign – named after his prison number – to mobilize governments to declare HIV/AIDS a global emergency. The event features performances by Beyonce, Bono, Bob Geldof and many others.

December 1, 2003 - Mandela participates in the signing of the Geneva Accords for peace in the Middle East.

January 2005 - Announces that his son, Makgatho, has died of AIDS.

August 29, 2007 - A bronze statue of Mandela is unveiled in Parliament Square in London.

June 27, 2008 - A London concert is held at Hyde Park in honor of Mandela’s 90th birthday (on July 18) with all proceeds going to charity. It is estimated that about 40,000 tickets were sold.

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.

November 11, 2009 - The United Nations declares July 18th Nelson Mandela International Day.

December 11, 2009 - The movie Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman as Mandela opens in South Africa, Canada and the United States.

February 11, 2010 - On the 20th anniversary of Mandela’s release from prison, tributes, commemorations and marches take place.

January 26-28, 2011 - Is hospitalized in Johannesburg and treated for an acute respiratory infection.

June 21, 2011 - Meets with US First Lady Michelle Obama at his home in South Africa.

February 25-26, 2012 - Treated for an abdominal hernia.

March 2012 - The Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project is launched. Google gives a $1.25 million grant to help preserve and digitize thousands of archival documents including items donated by Mandela himself.

December 8, 2012 - Is admitted to the hospital with a lung infection.

December 15, 2012 - Undergoes successful endoscopic surgery to have gall stones removed.

March 27, 2013 - Is admitted to the hospital due to a lung infection. He is discharged on April 6.

June 8, 2013 - Mandela is admitted to hospital with a recurring lung infection.

December 5, 2013 - Mandela dies at his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton. Zuma orders all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff through the state funeral.

December 15, 2013 - Mandela is buried in his childhood village of Qunu.