1912 A few hundred Africans meet to found the South African Native National Congress. (Eleven years later the name of the organization is changed to African National Congress (A.N.C.)
1950 Nelson Mandela becomes president of the ANC Youth League, six years after joining the organization. The same year, South Africa's National Party passes the Population Registration Act, authorizing classification of all South Africans by race, and the Group Areas Act which becomes the foundation for residential apartheid.
June 1955 The ANC calls for an end to all racial discrimination.
December 1956 Nelson Mandela, and over 150 other people, is arrested and charged with treason.
August 3, 1959 Mandela's treason trial opens in Pretoria.
March 21, 1960 In Sharpville, South African police open fireon a crowd protesting pass laws, killing 69 demonstrators and wounding 180 others. Mandela, still awaiting trial on his treason charge, is arrested at home and transferred to a Pretoria jail, where his treated brutally.
April 8, 1960  The South African government officially bans the ANC. The ANC does not dissolve, but rather goes underground. 
March 29, 1961 Mandela and the other defendants in the treason trial are found not guilty and discharged. 
May 1961  Nelson Mandela goes underground to organize a general strike.
October 1961 Mandela begins staying at the ANC's hideout, Lilliesleaf Farm in Rivonia.
December 16, 1961 A newly military spin-off organization of the ANC, Umkhonto We Sizwe, launches a campaign of sabotage against South Africa's National Party government by lighting explosives at an electricity sub-station. Over the next eighteen months, there will be dozens of other incidents involving sabotaged facilities. 
January 1962 Mandela leaves South Africa to raise funds and gain international support for the ANC and its objectives.
August 5, 1962 Nelson Mandela is arrested after returning to South Africa from an extended overseas trip. He is charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting a strike. 
October 1962 Mandela is convicted of leaving the country without a passport and inciting a strike. He begins serving a five-year prison term. The same month, the ANC establishes a "military wing," Umkhonto we Size (MK). 
May 1963 The South African government enacts a law that allows detention of persons suspected of political crimes for 90-days without a warrant. 
July 11, 1963 Seven men are arrested at a farmhouse in the Johannesburg suburb of Rivonia. The seven, who will be defendants charged with sabotage in the Rivonia trial, are incarcerated under a law allowing a 90-day detention without charges. 
August 3, 1963 Police arrest saboteur Bruno Mtolo, who will become the prosecution's star witness in the Rivonia trial.
August 11, 1963 Two men the government hoped to charged with conspiracy and sabotage, Harold Wolpe and Arthur Goldreich, escape from a South African jail and within twelve days are out of the country. 
October 9, 1963 The Rivonia defendants appear at the Palace of Justice in Pretoria, as the trial opens. The defendants are charged with sabotage and conspiracy. The defense asks for time to prepare its case. Justice de Wet grants a three-week adjournment. 
October 29, 1963 Justice de Wet grants a defense motion to quash the indictment. The defendants are re-arrested.
December 3, 1963 The Rivonia defendants enter "not guilty" pleas to a redrawn indictment and prosecutor Percy Yuter presents the government's opening statement.
December 10, 1963 The prosecution's star witness, Bruno Mtolo, takes the stand. 
March 4, 1964 The prosecution rests in the Nelson Mandela/Rivonia Trial.
April 20, 1964 Nelson Mandela offers a statement from the dock ("I am Prepared to Die") as the defense opens its case.
May 20, 1964  Closing statements begin in the Rivonia trial. 
June 11, 1964 The verdict is announced in the Rivonia trial. Mandela and all defendants except one (Rusty Bernstein) are found guilty. 
July 12, 1964 The convicted defendants are sentenced to life imprisonment by Justice de Wet. 
July 13, 1964 Mandela is transferred to prison on Robben Island near Cape Town
1985 Denis Goldberg is released after spending 22 years in jail. 
1986 Mandela enters into secret negotiations with officials of the South African government for an eventual move to non-racial elections.
1988 Goven Mbeki is released from jail. 
1989 Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba, and Andrew Mlangeni are released from jail.
February 1990 Nelson Mandela is released after spending 27 years in jail.
1991 Mandela is elected president of the ANC. 
1993 Nelson Mandela and F. W. de Klerk are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. 
April 27, 1994  The first democratic elections are held in South Africa. 
May 10, 1994 Mandela is inaugurated as South Africa's first black president. 
1999  Mandela's term as president of South Africa ends.