| 1941
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| 1942
| 1944
| May 1948
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| 1952
| 1952
| June 26, 1955
| September 1958
| 1958
| March 21, 1960

All photos courtesy Mayibuye/Robben Island

Nelson Mandela arrives in Johannesburg. Like thousands of blacks, he left his rural village in search of a better life.

You wanted a wage, the best way was to go to the gold mines.
—Joe Matthews, young activist and close friend of Nelson Mandela


Mandela begins working in Johannesburg as a law clerk at the firm Witkin, Sidelsky & Eidelman.

It was highly unusual for a black man to have such a position.
Nat Bregman, colleague at the firm, and according to Mandela, his first white friend.

Mandela befriends Walter Sisulu, who becomes his lifetime advisor and confidant.

Mandela was the figure in the forefront but my father was always in the background. The two were always deep in conversation.
—Lungi Sisulu, son of Walter Sisulu

Nelson Mandela joins the African National Congress (ANC). Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, and others form the ANC Youth League.

These young radicals—the class of '44 as we called them—demanded action. Not just petitions.
—Joe Matthews, member of the ANC Youth League and friend of Nelson Mandela

The National Party under D. F. Malan wins the parliamentary elections by a narrow margin.

There was a great deal of apartheid practiced even before the National Party came to power, just on a lower level. But when they came into power we knew the government was going to tighten screws on the blacks. I said to my husband, "Let's leave. We'll never get them out."
Helen Suzman, opposition member in parliament for 36 years

The National Party, now in power, implements new laws supporting racial discrimination and oppression.

One law after another came in: The Group Areas Act; The Immorality Act, so that you couldn't have sexual relations across the color line; Race Classification, which laid down for all time your color and your category--white, or colored. All these things came in one after the other.
Helen Suzman, opposition member in parliament for 36 years

In response to the new apartheid policies, the ANC Youth League drafts a 'Program of Action' calling for mass strikes, boycotts, protests and passive resistance.

The time had come for the emergence of a mass organization, a development the leadership did not welcome. We believed this was the program which would transform the ANC from an organization which tended to concentrate on deputations and memoranda to an organization which would be based on mass support.
Nelson Mandela

Mandela, in partnership with Oliver Tambo, opens a law firm in Johannesburg, which defends blacks prosecuted under the strict new laws of apartheid.

He was an imposing practitioner. Most black attorneys at the time gave the impression they were there under sufferance. Nelson Mandela made it clear that he was there as a right, and he was going to exercise it to the hilt. His clients were very proud. "Our man is fixing the man who is oppressing us!"
George Bizos, lawyer for Nelson Mandela and his wife, Winnie

The ANC and South African Indian Congress organize the 'The Defiance Campaign against Unjust Laws'. Mandela is the volunteer-in-chief, and more than 8,500 volunteers or 'defiers' are imprisoned for refusing to obey apartheid laws.

The ANC creates the Congress of the People, which draws up a set of principles for a new South Africa known as the Freedom Charter. People from around the country submit suggestions for this document, which will guide the movement for the next four decades.

H.F. Verwoerd becomes Prime Minister. His proposals to separate Blacks into independent states, or Bantustans, give him the title 'the chief architect of apartheid'. Under his plans, whites will keep 86% of the land, including the gold and diamond mines, and blacks will be forced into pockets of undeveloped rural areas.

Our policy is one which is called by an Afrikaans word, apartheid. It could much better be described as a policy of good neighborliness.
H.F. Verwoerd

Divorced from his first wife, Evelyn, Nelson Mandela marries Nomzamo Winnie Madikizela.

At the time that they got married we were facing treason charges. Immediately after the trial he went underground, so they hardly had a proper married life. Effectively, they were married for just three years.
Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist

In a mass demonstration, thousands of people walk into police stations throughout the country demanding to be arrested for not carrying their pass books. In Sharpeville, police open fire on the demonstrators, killing 60 people and wounding hundreds more. The government declares a State of Emergency in response to the growing unrest throughout the country.

The repercussions echoed throughout the world and South Africa was condemned for this.
Eddie Daniels, anti-apartheid activist