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Desmond Mpilo Tutu

anti-apartheid leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop of South Africa

Desmond Mpilo Tutu

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in Klerksdorp in the North West Province (formerly Western Transvaal), South Africa, on October 7, 1931. He attended school in Johannesburg, obtained a teachers' diploma at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College in 1953, and received his B.A. degree through the University of South Africa in 1954.

After three years as a high school teacher in Krugersdorp, Tutu left to study theology at St. Peter's Theological College; he became a deacon of the Anglican Church in 1960, and a priest in 1961. From 1962 to 1966 he continued his theological studies in England, receiving his Master of Theology degree. Returning to South Africa, he taught theology at the Federal Theological Seminary in the Cape and at the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. In 1972 he returned to England and spent three years as the assistant director of a theological institute in London. In 1975 he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho; in 1978 he became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.

Desmond Tutu is most known to the world through his efforts to rid South Africa of apartheid -- a government-sanctioned system of segregating whites and blacks in almost all matters of public life. Tutu emphasized that the only way South African blacks could rid themselves of apartheid was through peaceful means. He worked to convince other countries to help in South Africa's struggle, and was instrumental in getting many nations to invoke economic sanctions against South Africa. In 1980 the South African government revoked his passport in reprisal for his international actions. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of "the courage and heroism shown by black South Africans in their use of peaceful methods in the struggle against apartheid." Tutu used his prize money to establish the Southern African Refugee Scholarship Fund, enabling disadvantaged students to further their studies.

Tutu became Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985, and Archbishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa in 1986. In 1996 he retired as Archbishop and became Chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

Tutu's publications include: Crying in the Wilderness and Hope and Suffering, collections of sermons and addresses; and The Rainbow People of God, which includes biographical material and background narrative by John Allen.

The Desmond Tutu Peace Centre

Nobel Peace Prize

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This page was last updated on October 06, 2017.