April 2Forms the Youth League of the ANC with Oliver Tambo and Walter Sisulu.
JulyMarries his first wife Evelyn Ntoko Mase. The couple have four children, three now deceased.
Elected national secretary of the ANCYL.
The South African government limits the freedom of black Africans even more with the introduction of the apartheid policy of racial segregation.
Elected president of the ANCYL.
Elected Transvaal ANC president.
June 26The Defiance Campaign begins and he is arrested and imprisoned for a few days.
Arrested for violating the Suppression of Communism Act with Walter Sisulu and 17 others.
AugustOpens his own law office and provides free or low cost legal counsel to blacks who would otherwise have been without legal representation.
DecemberSentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour for violating the Suppression of Communism Act. Suspended for two years.
Devises the "M-Plan", which organised the ANC members into a nationwide underground network.
June 26Freedom Charter calling for equal rights and the abolishment of apartheid is adopted at the Congress of the People in Kliptown.
December 5Arrested and charged with high treason. Treason Trial follows (1956-60) and is acquitted.
Divorces his first wife of 13 years, Evelyn Ntoko Mase.
JuneMarries Nomzamo "Winnie" Madikizela and the couple have two daughters.
Parliament passes new laws extending racial segregation by creating separate homelands for major black groups in South Africa.
AprilThe ANC loses most of its support when members break away to form the Pan Africanist Congress under Potlako Leballo and Robert Sobukwe.
March 21Sharpeville Massacre: Police kill 69 peaceful protestor.
April 7The ANC is banned and Mandela goes into hiding.
December 16Forms Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), an underground military group.
JanuaryLeaves the country for military training and to gather support for MK.
August 5Arrested near Howick after returning to South Africa via Botswana.
November 7Sentenced to five years for incitement and leaving the country illegally.