About Desmond Tutu

Desmond TutuDesmond Tutu is a human rights defender and nobel prize winner from South Africa. He became world famous in the 1980’s as an opponent of apartheid. During that time Desmond Tutu was active as a bishop for the Anglican church in South Africa.

He was awarded the Nobel Prize of Peace in 1984 for his leading role in the movement to resolve the problems of Apartheid. And 2 years later, he became the first black African Archbishop in history, when he was elected as Archbishop of Cape Town.

Desmond Tutu Biography

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born on October 7th, 1931 in Klerksdorp, South Africa. He was the second and only son in a family of 3 children. His father’s name was Zacheriah Zililo Tutu and his mother’s name was Aletta Tutu. At the age of 12, Tutu’s family decided to move to Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa by population. Tutu’s father worked here as a teacher, while his mother was a cleaning lady and cook at a school for blind children. It was here that Desmond Tutu, being only 9 years old, met Trevor Huddleston, an event that Tutu refers to as the biggest defining moment in his life.

Trevor Huddleston, an English Anglican Bishop known for his fight against Apartheid, was a priest at the slums of Sophiatown at that time. Being just a child, Tutu witnessed how this tall white priest (Huddleston) took of his hat to greet Tutu’s mother, a black working class woman. Tutu never forgot this gesture and it gave him the passion to fight Apartheid later on in his life.

It was Tutu’s dream to become a physician, but since his family couldn’t afford the expensive studies, he instead followed his father’s footsteps and became a schoolteacher. He worked at several high schools, but resigned after the Bantu Education Act was declared. The Bantu Education Act (also know as Black Education Act) was an Apartheid law that enforced racial separation of educational facilities.

Because of this injustice against black South Africans, he continued his studies in theology at Sint Peter’s Theology College in Johannesburg and became active in the fight for equal rights. In 1960, Desmond Tutu was ordained as an Anglican priest, following in the footsteps of his longtime hero Trevor Huddleston.

Just 2 years later Tutu travelled to the UK, where he studied at King’s College London from 1962 till 1966, after which he obtained his Bachelors and Masters degree in Theology. During his time at King’s, Tutu got impressed by the freedom of speech and the easy access to books and other knowledge in the Western world, 2 highly valued assets he wanted to achieve in his beloved South Africa.

After his return to South Africa, Tutu started lecturing and creating awareness about the poor living circumstances of the black population in South Africa and the whole African continent. In his efforts to create awareness, he reached out to the Prime Minister of South Africa, John Vorster, from who he never got a response.

Tutu kept on lecturing at several South African universities until his return to the UK in 1972, where he became Vice-President of the Fund for Theological Education, an organisation that aims to educate young people in becoming responsible leaders in the church and academic world. After serving the organisation for 3 years, he returned to South Africa once again to become the first black African Anglican Dean in history. He got appointed to this position at the Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg.