Nelson Mandela was arrested and convicted of contravening the Suppresion of Communism Act

In 1949, the Programme of Action was written by the ANCYL and adopted by the ANC which advocated boycotts, strikes, civil disobedience and noncooperation to achieve its goals.

Mandela also co-authored the "ANCYL programme", which called for full citizenship, direct parliamentary representation, land redistribution, trade union rights, education and cultural equality for all South Africans. This was followed by the Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws in 1952, calling for mass disobedience starting with volunteers and involving more and more ordinary people. Mandela traveled the country organizing resistance to discriminatory legislation, often referred to as the "Black Pimpernal" by the press because of the disguises he used to avoid police. Mandela was arrested for these actions and convicted of contravening the Suppression of Communism Act. He was given a suspended sentence, prohibited from gatherings and confined to Johannesburg for six months. It was during this confinement that Mandela passed the attorney's admissions examination, and he and his long time friend, Oliver Tambo, opened the country's first black law partnership with the help of Walter Sisulu.

In 1944 Mandela founded the Youth League of the ANC and eventually became its activist general secretary.

In 1952 as apartheid laws increased their stranglehold on the black majority, Mandela toured South Africa organizing boycotts, strikes, and civil disobedience. He supervised volunteers in a so-called "Campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws," which resulted in the first in a series of South African Government crack downs and suppression of the ANC. Mandela was arrested in a subsequent government crackdown and received a suspended sentence.

In 1956 he was arrested again under the Suppression of Communism Act, but he was acquitted when the court found that the ANC Youth League did not advocate violence. Mandela, however, became increasingly radicalized and gradually accepted the need for violent resistance to an increasingly oppressive government crackdown on Black citizens asserting their rights.

In December 1952 Mandela and a 19 others were arrested and charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their participation in the Defiance Campaign. They were sentenced to nine months imprisonment with hard labour, suspended for two years. He was later served with a banning order prohibiting him from attending meetings for six months, or from leaving the Johannesburg magisterial district. For the following nine years his banning orders were continually renewed.