Key Mandela moments: A biographical timeline

A look back at the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist and former president of South Africa.

Mike Hutchings/REUTERS/File
Former South African President Nelson Mandela greets photographers in Johannesburg in this 2005 file photo.

1. In the beginning

July 18, 1918: Mandela is born in the village of Mvezo, in rural Eastern Cape. His father is a chief of the Madiba clan of the Thembu people; Mandela’s mother is third among four wives. Mandela is named Rolihlahla, which is Xhosa for “troublemaker.” 

1925: Becomes the first person in his family to go to school. On his first day, he is given the name Nelson, after Lord Horatio Nelson, a British vice admiral in the Napoleonic Wars.

1927: Mr. Mandela's father dies and he is brought up by Chief Jongintaba Dalindyebo, the acting regent of the Thembu. Living in the Thembu royal court, Mandela later said the move awoke his ambition and taught him the value of consensual politics.

1939: After finishing secondary school, Mandela enrolls in the University of Fort Hare, an elite public university for black Africans. He is suspended for organizing a boycott and leaves the university without a degree.

1941-43: Fleeing home to escape an arranged marriage, Mandela goes to Johannesburg where he met Walter Sisulu, later to become African National Congress (ANC) secretary general. Mandela completes his BA and earns a law degree.

1944: Mandela joins the ANC, and along with Mr. Sisulu and Oliver Tambo creates its youth league, transforming the organization into an activist party. That year he  marries Evelyn Ntoko Mase. They have four children before divorcing 14 years later.

1 of 6

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.