Desmond Tutu is a social activist and retired Anglican priest who grew famous in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in a rural area of South Africa. At age 12, he moved to Johannesburg, which is the largest city in South Africa by population. In that city, he met Trevor Huddleston, who was one of the first people to give Tutu an image of reconciliation. This English Anglican priest, a white man of position, took his hat off in respect to Tutu’s mother, a black working class woman; this was an unusual gesture in the apartheid times.
Tutu experienced first hand the effects of apartheid in legislation. In 1953, the Bantu Education Act enforced racial separation in schools. This meant that black schools would be teaching them short hours with a curriculum designed to show blacks their status in society, which was factory workers. Tutu was a high school teacher at the time and he quit his job after these offensive laws came out.
This gave Tutu the opportunity to study theology at St. Peters in Johannesburg where he became ordained as an Anglican priest, and afterwards studied at King’s College in London to earn his masters. Upon his return to South Africa in 1966, he gave lectures at South African universities, to preach forgiveness and reconciliation to the apartheid South Africa.
He was also a voice in the world arena to raise awareness on the apartheid in South Africa. For example, in his speech of acceptance of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, he spoke at length about the many deaths and injustices native South Africans were facing. His answer for the injustice was always about how forgiveness was necessary for the recovery of the country. He said, “without forgiveness there can be no future for a relationship between individuals or within and between nations“.
A year after apartheid ended in 1994 and Nelson Mandela became president, he was appointed for the Peace and Reconciliation Commission to investigate anti-apartheid crimes.
Tutu is still alive today and continues to speak publicly about issues, advocating for human rights. For example, he recently spoke about his desire for the African government to legalize assisted death because “everyone deserves the right to a dignified death”.
In an October 28, 1985, address to the United Nations Special Political Committee, Bishop Desmond Tutu calls for the immediate dismantling of apartheid:
About the Bantu Education Act:
Desmond Tutu’s Peace Foundation:
Nobel Prize Winner: