Bishop Desmond Tutu

Bishop Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in the gold mining town west of Johannesburg called Klerksdorp. At the age of twelve his family moved to Johannesburg. His first jobs were selling peanuts at railroad stations and caddying on a golf course.

Desmond Tutu wanted to be a doctor, but lacked the funds to pursue this goal. Instead, he studied to be a school teacher like his father. For a year and a half in his late teens he was hospitalized for tuberculosis. During his hospitalization, he was visited by an Anglican priest named Trevor Huddleston. Reverend Huddleston had a great influence on Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Tutu started teaching in 1954. He quit after three years because of a new law that restricted blacks to a second-rate "Bantu education." He then became an Anglican priest. In 1962 he moved to London with his family and later returned to South Africa to teach theology seminars.

In 1975 he was appointed the Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral and was the first black to be named to this post. He then served two years as Bishop of Lesotho, and in 1978 was appointed General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches. Archbishop Desmond Tutu led the churches in opposition to the racial segregation brought about by government policies of apartheid. Apartheid had been introduced by the Nationalist party that had taken power in 1948, the objective of the party being to maintain the control of 4.5 million whites over 23 million blacks. The laws to contain control consisted of limited educational opportunities for blacks, segregation of blacks to so-called homelands, restriction of freedom of movement and of association, detention without trial, as well as the introduction of "the pass," which was required to be carried by all black at all times.

Desmond Tutu refused to carry "the pass" and spoke out against the policies. He followed a strict belief in nonviolence. When in other countries, Desmond Tutu called for economic sanctions against South Africa. On several occasions when he returned home, officials would confiscate his passport. In 1984 Archbishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership of a nonviolent struggle to liberate the suppressed black majority in South Africa. In 1976 he and a fellow activist tried to turn an uprising in Soweto, a town on the edge of Johannesburg, into peaceful demonstrations. He wrote to the prime minister of South Africa, Balthazar J. Vorster, to warn him about the situation. The Prime minister discarded the letter. On June 16 that year 600 blacks were killed in the Soweto riots.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu is the recipient of many honorary degrees from the world's major universities and is the author of An African Prayer Book and The Rainbow People of God.