Desmond Tutu booking

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In 1978 Desmond Tutu was appointed general secretary of the South African Council of Churches and
became a leading spokesperson for the rights of black South Africans. During the 1980s he played an
unrivaled role in drawing national and international attention to the iniquities of apartheid, and in 1984
he won the Nobel Prize for Peace for his efforts.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on October 7, 1931 in Klerksdorp, South Africa. His father was an
elementary school principal and his mother worked cooking and cleaning at a school for the blind. The
South Africa of Tutu’s youth was rigidly segregated, with black Africans denied the right to vote and
forced to live only in specific areas. Although as a child Tutu understood that he was treated worse
than white children based on nothing other than the color of his skin, he resolved to make the best of
the situation and still managed a happy childhood. “We knew, yes, we were deprived,” he later
recalled. “It wasn’t the same thing for white kids, but it was as full a life as you could make it. I mean,
we made toys for ourselves with wires, making cars, and you really were exploding with joy!” Tutu
recalls one day when he was out walking with his mother when a white man, a priest named Trevor
Huddleston, tipped his hat to her—the first time he had ever seen a white man pay this respect to a
black woman. The incident made a profound impression on Tutu, teaching him that he need not
accept discrimination and that religion could be a powerful tool for advocating racial equality. Tutu was
a bright and curious child with a passion for reading. He especially loved reading comic strips as well
as Aesop’s Fables and the plays of Shakespeare. His family moved to the capital city of Johannesburg
when he was 12 years old, and it was around that time that Tutu contracted tuberculosis and nearly
died. The experience inspired his ambition to become a medical doctor and find a cure for the disease.
Tutu attended Johannesburg Bantu High School, a grossly underfunded all-black school where he
nevertheless received an excellent education. “The people who taught us were very dedicated and
they inspired you to want to emulate them and really to become all that you could become,” Tutu
remembered. “They gave you the impression that, in fact, yeah, the sky is the limit. You can, even with
all of the obstacles that are placed in your way; you can reach out to the stars.” Tutu graduated from
high school in 1950, and although he had been accepted into medical school, his family could not
afford the expensive tuition. Instead he accepted a scholarship to study education at Pretoria Bantu
Normal College and graduated with his teacher’s certificate in 1953. He then continued on to receive a
bachelor’s degree from the University of South Africa in 1954. Upon his graduation from university,
Tutu returned to his high school alma mater to teach English and history. “I tried to be what my
teachers had been to me to these kids,” he said, “seeking to instill in them a pride, a pride in
themselves. A pride in what they were doing. A pride that said they may define you as so and so. You
aren’t that. Make sure you prove them wrong by becoming what the potential in you says you can
Nevertheless, Tutu became increasingly frustrated with the racism corrupting all aspects of South
African life under apartheid. In 1948, when Tutu was 17 years old, the National Party won control of
the government and codified the nation’s long-present segregation and inequality into the official, rigid
policy of apartheid. In 1953, the government passed the Bantu Education Act, a law that lowered the
standards of education for black South Africans to ensure that they only learned what was necessary
for a life of servitude. The government spent one-tenth as much money on the education of a black
student as on the education of a white one, and Tutu’s overcrowded classes often included as many
as 80 pupils. No longer willing to participate in an educational system explicitly designed to promote
inequality, he quit teaching in 1957. The next year, in 1958, Tutu enrolled at St. Peter’s Theological
College in Johannesburg. He was ordained as an Anglican deacon in 1960 and as a priest in 1961. In
1962, Tutu left South Africa to pursue further theological studies in London, receiving his master’s of
theology from King’s College in 1966. He then returned from his four years abroad to teach at the
Federal Theological Seminary at Alice in the Eastern Cape as well as to serve as the chaplain of the
University of Fort Hare. In 1970, Tutu moved to the University of Roma in Lesotho to serve as a
lecturer in the department of theology. Two years later, he decided to move back to England to accept

his appointment as the associate director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of
Churches in Kent. Tutu’s rise to international prominence began when he became the first black
person to be appointed the Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975. It was in this position that he
emerged as one of the most prominent and eloquent voices in the South African anti-apartheid
movement. Tutu explained, “I realized that I had been given a platform that was not readily available to
many blacks and most of our leaders were either now in chains or in exile. And I said, ‘Well, I’m going
to use this to seek to try to articulate our aspirations and the anguishes of our people.’” In 1976, shortly
after he was appointed Bishop of Lesotho, further raising his international profile, Tutu wrote a letter to
the South African Prime Minister warning him that a failure to quickly redress racial inequality could
have dire consequences, but his letter was ignored. Tutu was selected as the General Secretary of the
South African Council of Churches in 1978, and he continued to use his elevated position in the South
African religious hierarchy to advocate for an end to apartheid. “I never doubted that ultimately we
were going to be free, because ultimately I knew there was no way in which a lie could prevail over the
truth, darkness over light, death over life,” he said. In 1984, Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace
Prize “not only as a gesture of support to him and to the South African Council of Churches of which
he is leader, but also to all individuals and groups in South Africa who, with their concern for human
dignity, fraternity and democracy, incite the admiration of the world.” He was the first South African to
receive the award since Albert Luthuli in 1961. Tutu’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize transformed
South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement into a truly international force with deep sympathies all across
the globe. “It opened doors which was important for our people,” he said about the award. “It was
important for our people at that point in our history because we were tending to go off the radar screen
and this brought us back spectacularly.” The award also elevated Tutu to the status of a renowned
world leader. As he himself put it, “You get the Nobel Peace Prize and you say the same thing that
you said before you got the prize and now everybody thinks, ‘Oh, dear, the oracle has spoken.’”
In 1985, Tutu was appointed the Bishop of Johannesburg, and a year later he became the first black
person to hold the highest position in the South African Anglican Church when he was chosen as the
Archbishop of Cape Town. In 1987, he was also named the president of the All Africa Conference of
Churches, a position he held until 1997. In no small part due to Tutu’s eloquent advocacy and brave
leadership, in 1993 South African apartheid finally came to an end, and in 1994 South Africans elected
Nelson Mandela as their first black president. The honor of introducing the new president to the nation
fell to Tutu. He recalled that in that triumphant moment he whispered to God, “If I die now, it would be
almost the perfect moment. This is the theme for which we had all been waiting for.” President
Mandela appointed Tutu to head a Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with investigating and
reporting on the atrocities committed by both sides in the struggle over apartheid.

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