Desmond Tutu

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Date: May 31, 2013
Document Type: Biography
Length: 5,431 words
Lexile Measure: 1330L

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About this Person
Born: October 07, 1931 in Klerksdorp, South Africa
Nationality: South African
Occupation: Antiapartheid activist
Other Names: Tutu, Desmond Mpilo; Tutu, Desmond M.
Updated:May 31, 2013

Born October 7, 1931, in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa; son of Zachariah (a school teacher), and Aletta (a domestic servant) Tutu; married Leah Nomalizo Shenxane (a teacher), July 2, 1955; children: Trevor Thamsanqa, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi, Mpho Andrea. Education: Bantu Normal College, Pretoria, South Africa, teacher's diploma, 1953; University of South Africa, Johannesburg, B.A., 1954; St. Peter's Theological College, Johannesburg, L.Th., 1960; King's College, London, B.D., 1965, M.Th., 1966. Avocational Interests: Music, reading, jogging. Memberships: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Addresses: Home: Claremont, Cape Province, South Africa. E-mail:


Teacher at high schools in Johannesburg, South Africa, 1954-55, and in Krugersdorp, South Africa, 1955-58; ordained as deacon, 1960, and Anglican priest, 1961; St. Alban's Church, Benoni, Johannesburg, curate, 1960-61; St. Mary's Cathedral, Johannesburg, priest, 1961; St. Philip's Church, Alberton, Transvaal, South Africa, curate, 1961-62; St. Alban's Church, Golders Green, London, England, part-time curate, 1962-65; St. Mary's Church, Bletchingley, Surrey, England, part-time curate, 1965-66; lecturer at Federal Theological Seminary, Alice, Cape Province, South Africa, 1967-69; lecturer in theology at University of Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland, 1970-72; World Council of Churches' Theological Education Fund, Bromley, Kent, England, associate director, 1972-75; St. Augustine's Church, Grove Park, Kent, England, curate, 1972-75; dean of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, 1975-76; bishop of Lesotho, South Africa, 1976-78; general secretary of South African Council of Churches, 1978-85; assistant Anglican bishop of Johannesburg, 1978-85, bishop, 1984-86; St. Augustine's Parish, Soweto, South Africa, rector, 1981-85; archbishop of Cape Town and Anglican primate of southern Africa, 1986-96; emeritus archbishop of Cape Town, 1996--; Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chair, beginning 1996; visiting scholar-in-residence, University of North Florida, 2003; social reformer and political activist.

Chaplain at University of Fort Hare, 1967-69, and University of Western Cape, Cape Town, 1988--; visiting professor at General Theological Seminary, New York City, 1984; Richard Feetham Academic Freedom Lecture, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, 1985; President, All Africa Conference of Churches, 1987-97; Chancellor, University of Western Cape, beginning 1988; Desmond Tutu Educational Trust. founder, 1993. Participant at several international conferences, including the "Salvation Today" conference, Bangkok, Thailand, Anglican Consultative Council, Port of Spain, Trinidad, and the World Council of Churches' 6th Assembly, Vancouver, Canada, 1983. Trustee of Phelps Stoke Fund. Elders, chair and cofounder, 2007--. Has also appeared in numerous documentaries.


Fellow of King's College, London, 1978; Prix d'Athene from Onassis Foundation, 1980; designated member of International Social Prospects Academy, 1983; Family of Man Gold Medal Award, 1983; Martin Luther King, Jr., Humanitarian Award, 1984; Nobel Peace Prize from Norwegian Nobel Committee, 1984, for "role as unifying leader ... in the campaign to resolve the problem of apartheid in South Africa;" Sam Ervin Free Speech Award, 1985; Order of Southern Cross, Brazil, 1987; Order of Merit of Brasilia, Brazil, 1987; Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, Emmanuel College, 1988; Freedom of the Borough of Lewisham, UK, 1990, Freedom of the City of Kinshasa, 1990; Sydney Peace Prize, 1999; Gandhi Peace Prize, 2005 Presidential Medal of Freedom, 2009; Templeton Prize, 2013. Recipient of over thirty honorary doctoral degrees, including LL.D. from Harvard University, 1979, D.Th. from Ruhr University, and D.D. from Aberdeen University, 1984 and Oxford University, 1990.



  • Crying in the Wilderness, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1982.
  • Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches, [Johannesburg, South Africa], 1983, revised edition, edited by William B. Eerdmans, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1984.
  • (Author of foreword) Omar Badsha, editor, South Africa: The Cordoned Heart, Gallery Press (Cape Town, South Africa), 1986.
  • (Author of foreword) The War against Children: South Africa's Youngest Victims, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (New York, NY), 1986.
  • (Contributor) Buti Tlhagale and Itumeleng Mosala, editors, Hammering Swords into Ploughshares: Essays in Honor of Archbishop Mpilo Desmond Tutu, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1987.
  • (Author of foreword) Frank England, editor, Bounty in Bondage: The Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Essays in Honor of Edward Iing, Dean of Cape Town, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1989.
  • (With Naomi Tutu) The Words of Desmond Tutu, Newmarket Press (New York, NY), 1989.
  • (Author of foreword) Martin Prozesky, editor, Christianity Amidst Apartheid: Selected Perspectives on the Church in South Africa, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1990.
  • (Contributor) Jim Cole, editor Filtering People: Understanding and Confronting Our Prejudices, New Society Publishers (Philadelphia, PA), 1990.
  • (Author of foreword) Sue Williamson, Resistance Art in South Africa, St. Martin's (New York, NY), 1990.
  • The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1994.
  • (Editor and author of introduction) An African Prayer Book, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1995.
  • (With Michael Jesse Battle) Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 1997.
  • (With Godfrey W. Ashby) Go out and Meet God: A Commentary on the Book of Exodus, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1998.
  • (With Lawrence Boadt) The Hebrew Prophets: Visionaries of the Ancient World, Griffin Trade (New York, NY), 1999.
  • No Future without Forgiveness, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1999.
  • (With Douglas Abrams) God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.
  • (With Vaclav Havel) Threat to the Peace: A Call for the UN Security Council to Act in Burma, DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary (Washington, DC), 2005.
  • (Author of introduction) Believe: The Words and Inspiration of Desmond Tutu, Blue Mountain Press (Boulder, CO), 2007.
  • (With Douglas Carlton Abrams) God's Dream, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Candlewick Press (Cambridge, MA), 2008.
  • (With others) Access to Life: Magnum, Aperture (New York, NY), 2009.
  • (Author of foreword) Gregory A. Barker and Stephen E. Gregg, editors, Jesus beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2010.
  • (Reteller) Children of God: Storybook Bible, Willie Botha, editor, Lux Verbi (Wellington, South Africa), 2010, Zonderkidz (Grand Rapids, MI), 2010.
  • (With Mpho A. Tutu) Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference, Douglas C. Abrams, editor, HarperOne (New York, NY), 2010.
  • In the Words of Desmond Tutu: A Little Pocketbook, compiled and edited by David Shepherd, Penguin (Johannesburg, South Africa), 2010.
  • God Is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations, edited by John Allen, HarperOne (New York, NY), 2011.
  • 100 Places to Go before They Disappear, Abrams (New York, NY), 2011.
  • (Author of foreword) Donna Hicks, Dignity: The Essential Role It Plays in Resolving Conflict, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2011.
  • (Author of foreword) Stephen Ellis, Season of Rains: Africa in the World, The University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2012.

Also author of several articles and reviews.



As former Archbishop of Cape Town, leader of the Anglican Church in southern Africa, and one of the world's foremost black critics of South Africa's history of apartheid, Desmond Tutu has been "nothing if not impassioned," wrote Joshua Hammer in People. "Like all great preachers, his every speech and press conference is a blaze of emotion, his every gesture a drop of oil fueling the oratorical fire. Waving his arms, punching the air like a boxer, the elfin ... figure draws in his followers with a stream of whispers, shouts and sobs, punctuated with roars of laughter." Yet until he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, Tutu was little known outside his native South Africa.

During the 1970s and into the 1980s, first as general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, then as bishop of Johannesburg, and later as archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu campaigned vigorously for the abolition of apartheid, South Africa's long-standing system of government that defined and allocated political power and privileges to different groups of people on the basis of skin color and ethnic background. He became internationally famous as the face of opposition to apartheid within South Africa. When apartheid was finally abolished in the early 1990s, Tutu stepped out of the limelight somewhat to let colleagues such as President Nelson Mandela take center stage in reintegrating South Africa into the world community. Nonetheless, his profile as a consistently thoughtful, humane critic of his country's social injustices remains high.

Tutu's first recollections of the apartheid system in operation came when he was growing up in the western Transvaal mining town of Klerksdorp. He told Marc Cooper and Greg Goldin of Rolling Stone that the constant racial taunts of the white boys were not "thought to be out of the ordinary," but as he got older he "began finding things eating away at [him]." Recalling one incident in which he heard his father referred to as "boy," Tutu remarked: "I knew there wasn't a great deal I could do, but it just left me churned. ... What he must have been feeling ... being humiliated in the presence of his son. Apartheid has always been the same systematic racial discrimination: it takes away your human dignity and rubs it in the dust and tramples it underfoot." Young Tutu also witnessed the harsh economic realities of the government's discriminatory policies while attending the local school. The white children, for whom the government had arranged free school meals, disliked the institutional food and threw it away, preferring to eat what their mothers packed for them. Many black schoolchildren of poor families, recalled Tutu, were reduced to scavenging in the cafeteria's rubbish bins for food during lunch periods.

In 1943 the Tutu family moved to Johannesburg where Desmond's father continued to teach and his mother worked as a cook at a missionary school for the blind. The new surroundings greatly affected young Tutu. Not only was he deeply moved by the dedication and service shown by staff members to the children in the school where his mother worked, but it was here that he first met Father Trevor Huddleston, who became his most influential mentor and friend. A leading British critic of South Africa's apartheid system, Huddleston served as the parish priest in Sophiatown, a black slum district of Johannesburg. In an interview with the London Observer, Tutu recalled his first meeting with the priest: "I was standing with my mother one day, when this white man in a cassock walked past and doffed his big black hat to her. I couldn't believe it--a white man raising his hat to a simple black labouring woman." Huddleston, who was beginning to build an international reputation as an outspoken opponent of apartheid and whom the South African authorities recognized as one of their most controversial critics, became a close friend of Tutu. When the young African contracted tuberculosis as a teenager and was hospitalized for almost twenty months, Huddleston visited him nearly every day. The impact of Huddleston's friendship on Tutu's later life was immense.

Following full recovery from tuberculosis, Tutu resumed his education, and entered the School of Medicine at Witwatersrand University with the intention of becoming a doctor. When his family could no longer afford the tuition fees, however, he was forced to drop out of medical school and begin training as a teacher instead. Tutu received his B.A. from the University of Johannesburg in 1954 and taught high school in Johannesburg and Krugersdorp until 1957. It was then that Tutu's previous experiences with apartheid and the compassion he felt for his fellow man combined to change and redirect what might otherwise have been an uneventful career. While teaching at Munsieville High School in Krugersdorp, the South African government announced plans to introduce a state-run system of education especially intended for students in black districts. Limiting both the quality and extent of education, the system was considered by many to be deliberately second-rate. Tutu, along with several of his colleagues, found the plan ubiquitous and resigned. As a young man newly married, without a job, and sensing a growing urge to serve his community and country, Tutu, in retrospect, said he felt as if God had grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and, whether it was convenient or not, had sent him off to spread God's word. That same year, inspired by the ideals of his mentor Trevor Huddleston, he began theological studies with the priests of the Community of the Resurrection, the Anglican order to which Huddleston belonged.

Following ordainment as a priest in 1961, Tutu began to establish his career in the Anglican church, working in small parishes in England and South Africa. Concurrently he continued his education and in 1966 received a master's degree in theology from King's College, London. In 1972 he accepted a position in England as associate director of the Theological Education Fund. Thoroughly enjoying his role, he traveled extensively throughout Asia and Africa and presided over the allocation of World Council of Churches scholarships. Thoughts of South Africa and the discrimination faced by his black countrymen seemed to surface continually, however, demanding his consideration. Throughout the early 1970s, tensions increased between an angry black community and a white-dominated government determined to maintain its political powers. Finally, in 1975, Tutu decided to return to his homeland and contribute what he could to the liberation struggle. Upon returning, his presence and commitment to the cause of black Africans was felt almost immediately.

As Tutu ascended the ecclesiastical ranks of the Anglican church--in 1976 he was consecrated bishop of Lesotho, one of the government-designated black homelands--his involvement in the antiapartheid cause assumed an importance concomitant with his position. Choosing always to live in his parish, he closely monitored the feelings of his congregation and the local community; during the 1970s, in an atmosphere of mounting racial tensions, Tutu attempted to pacify angry black youths, encouraging them to seek change through peaceful means. In 1976, he met with black activist Nhato Motlana in an effort to curb the potential violence of youths in the black township of Soweto on the outskirts of Johannesburg. He also wrote to the incumbent South African Prime Minister Balthazar J. Vorster, warning him of the dangerous situation in Soweto. Tutu later claimed that Vorster dismissed his letter as a ploy engineered by political opponents. On June 16, 1976, however, racial tensions exploded into racial violence as black demonstrators met untempered reprisal from white security forces. Six hundred blacks were shot to death in the confrontation.

The tragic consequences of the Soweto riots seemed to mark a watershed in the attention given to the antiapartheid struggle in South Africa. Thereafter the situation received more extensive coverage from the world's press, which supplied the West with explanations of the escalating racial conflict and attempted to expose the possible reasons for it. For Tutu the increasing number of violent confrontations between blacks and security forces marked a change in his perception of his own involvement. Until the Soweto riots, he made himself generally available to discuss the situation with any representative from any side; following the riots he began to use his growing influence and openly initiated peaceful negotiation. This was not done in deference to the government; Tutu had become a highly visible and vocal critic.

By 1978 Tutu had been appointed the first black secretary general of the South African Council of Churches, and his personal attitude toward apartheid had hardened. He felt he could no longer condone the system on either political or moral grounds, and he determinedly set out to promote peaceful change toward a truly democratic system of government in South Africa. As head of the Council Tutu became spokesman for its thirteen million members, thus gaining increased political strength; due to its racial composition--eighty percent black--the Council was an ideal vehicle for voicing political opposition to the apartheid system. Under Tutu's direction the Council not only became openly critical of the South African government, but it also supported a network of anti-government protest. Responsible for paying the legal fees of arrested black protesters, for supporting the families of imprisoned activists, and for financing anti-government demonstrations, the Council did not endear itself to the South African authorities. The South African government began to single out Council leaders--Tutu prominent among them--for criticism, with the help of press agencies that supported government views. In addition Tutu and his colleagues were constantly harassed with accusations of minor misdemeanors and, through government legislation, were deprived of certain rights of free movement. But in 1979, on two occasions, Tutu openly challenged the government, seriously confronting its credibility in the eyes of the rest of the world.

The first challenge came after the passing of the Group Areas Act, a policy that gave the government the power to forcibly remove blacks from their homes in urban South Africa and relocate them in government designated tribal homelands. The act made it virtually impossible for blacks to continue working at the better-paying city jobs without enduring lengthy and uncomfortable journeys every day or paying to live in one of the government's single-sexed hostels located in the city suburbs. And for those blacks who stayed in the homelands to work, their only hope was to eke out a meager living from very poor farmland. Appalled by the situation and by conditions in the homelands, Tutu compared the South African government with that of Nazi Germany, denouncing the forced relocation of blacks as South Africa's "final solution" to the black "problem." Although he later retracted the wording of his outburst, he continued to protest the policy and chided the government in Pretoria for deliberately starving people in South Africa while it boasted about its grain exports to nearby Zambia.

Tutu voiced his second major condemnation of the South African government before an international audience in autumn of 1979, which probably marks the beginning of his visibility in the world's media. In an interview for a Danish television program, Tutu called on the government of Denmark to cease buying South African coal as a sign of support for the antiapartheid cause. The appeal moved people in Western countries to consider economic sanction as the ultimate weapon in the battle against apartheid. Concerned citizens, particularly in Europe, had voiced disapproval of South Africa's white minority government for years, but they had never found an effective means of critical expression that would force the white government to reconsider its policies. Tutu's proposal offered a method that later became a principal part of the strategy in the worldwide fight against apartheid. It also successfully focused attention upon the real possibility of positive change in South Africa.

Tutu's actions brought him very close to serious government reprisals. Returning from Denmark in 1979, authorities seized his passport, a move generally seen as a warning of possible imprisonment--the fate of two previous government critics, Nelson R. Mandela and Victor Tambo--or expulsion from the country. Tutu ignored the signal, however, and continued his antiapartheid campaign. The South African government eventually returned his passport in January 1981, but confiscated it again in April. Thereafter Tutu was allowed to travel outside South Africa only with the government's permission and special travel documents that listed his nationality as "undetermined." In August 1982, the South African government denied Tutu permission to go to New York to receive an honorary doctorate from Columbia University. Since the university does not grant degrees in absentia, Columbia's president traveled to South Africa and personally presented Tutu his degree in a ceremony held in Johannesburg.

It was during a permitted stay in the United States, on October 16, 1984, that Desmond Tutu received word that he was the 1984 Nobel peace laureate. Part of the Nobel citation read: "It is the committee's wish that the Peace Prize now awarded to Desmond Tutu should be regarded 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." Less than a month later, on November 3, 1984, Tutu was elected as the first Anglican bishop of Johannesburg; he subsequently resigned as secretary general of the South African Council of Churches.

Tutu immediately expanded his efforts to abolish apartheid. He called upon the international community to use diplomatic, political, and economic pressures to convince the South African government in Pretoria to rid itself of apartheid. Maintaining a strong belief in nonviolence, Tutu was positive such actions offered the only viable means of avoiding massive bloodshed. His request caused considerable reaction in the United States. In December 1984, Tutu traveled to Washington, DC, to meet with President Ronald Reagan. He tried to persuade the president to impose economic sanctions against South Africa, arguing that such a measure would help put an end to police violence and lead to the release of political prisoners. But Reagan preferred, instead, to remain on friendly terms with Pretoria, believing only diplomacy would produce positive change in South Africa, a policy he called "constructive engagement." The president's stance provoked a nationwide response as hundreds of antiapartheid demonstrators picketed South African consulates and embassies throughout the country. In a well-received speech before a bipartisan congressional committee, Tutu called on the United States to make a stand against racism. In response to the bishop's appeal, increasing numbers of state and local government, educational institutions, and labor unions began plans to withdraw investments from companies doing business with South Africa. Pretoria viewed the American developments with growing concern.

Over the next several months civil unrest in South Africa escalated from boycotts, strikes, and stone-throwing clashes between township blacks and police to bloody riots symptomatic of civil war. By July 1985, more than 500 people had been killed, including four leaders of the largely black nationalist United Democratic Front (UDF) party. Many of the victims were black government employees and town councilors attacked by blacks loyal to UDF, some were blacks who had patronized white businesses, others were killed when police opened fire on rioters. The deteriorating situation prompted President Botha to declare a state of emergency in more than thirty districts throughout the country, including Johannesburg and most of the Transvaal provinces. Invoking the emergency powers of South Africa's 1953 Public Security Act, the government was allowed to impose curfews, arrest and detain suspects for fourteen days without a warrant, interrogate prisoners without the presence of lawyers, and tighten censorship on the press. International response to Botha's move was guarded, but antiapartheid leaders in South Africa were incensed.

The government outlawed funeral marches, for example, sensing that the traditionally communal affairs represented subversion and civil disorder. Funeral services, however, were permitted. During one instance in the black township of Daveyton, police and military units surrounded the tent where family, friends, and community members gathered for the burial service of a young black woman shot and killed during a demonstration. Army troops held guns ready, police dogs were positioned atop armored cars, and helicopters surveyed the area from above. It was the largest display of government force since Botha's declaration of emergency began. The tension mounted as the government forces waited to see if the crowd would, in defiance, march to the cemetery located several blocks away. Just when violence seemed likely to erupt, Bishop Tutu arrived and the atmosphere relaxed immediately. The coffin of the slain girl was brought into the tent and set before the clergyman, who calmly performed the religious service. After the completion of the religious service, the police ordered the crowd to disperse, allowing people in vehicles only to go to the cemetery. Tutu pleaded with the police commandant to provide buses, warning that violence could otherwise erupt. After an hour of tense waiting, buses finally arrived and transported the mourners to the cemetery. A potentially bloody confrontation was avoided, order had been maintained, and peace prevailed.

During the weeks following the Daveyton incident, international condemnation of Pretoria's declared state of emergency increased. Canada prepared to toughen its limited economic sanctions, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the first imposition of broad economic sanctions against South Africa, and more than a dozen European nations recalled their diplomats in a gesture of disapproval. By the end of 1985, the rand (South Africa's monetary unit) lost fifty percent of its value. President Botha, however, was determined not to succumb to external pressure and his declaration of emergency held firm. Tutu also held firm to his own declaration to rid South Africa of apartheid, and he continued his outspoken appeal for international support of the antiapartheid cause. But international action was slow to develop, especially in the United States where President Reagan insisted on maintaining his current policy of deploring the apartheid system while opposing punitive sanctions. Angry with the Reagan administration's attitude, Tutu warned that countries could not remain neutral about apartheid.

Over the next several months antiapartheid forces did gain support in the United States when the House of Representatives approved a bill that would impose a trade embargo on South Africa. President Reagan still refused to approve sanctions, however, and promised to veto such a bill. In a speech made in July 1986, Reagan stated that current U.S. policy toward South Africa would remain unchanged, further angering Tutu.

In early September 1986, Tutu was elected archbishop of Cape Town and the primate of the Anglican Church for all of southern Africa. Conducting his final service in Johannesburg before his enthronement as archbishop, Tutu assured his congregation that they would be free. President Botha, however, continued to be adamant and the South African government made stricter emergency regulations about criticizing the government over its detention laws.

Tutu, however, along with others, refused to acknowledge such restrictions on their speech. Governments worldwide, including the United States, also expressed official disapproval. Faced with such widespread opposition, Pretoria retreated somewhat, but they had once again fueled the fires of civil unrest and the antiapartheid cause. Tutu, adhering to his conviction that democracy and freedom could exist in South Africa, continued his campaign for the peaceful liberation of his countrymen. In the early 1990s, increasing pressure within and outside of South Africa finally led the government of F.W. DeKlerk to abolish apartheid and institute majority rule. Nelson Mandela, long imprisoned, was released from prison and was elected president of the new South Africa. Tutu's conviction that his countrymen would eventually be free became reality. Following the establishment of a free South Africa, Tutu was named chair of the country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a vital institution insuring that the country could move forward out of the evil cycle of abuse and retribution spawned by the apartheid system. Since then, Tutu has continued to lecture worldwide and has also written numerous books.

Many of Tutu's orations have been collected in Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches, described as "vintage Tutu" by Huston Horn in the Los Angeles Times Book Review. "Tutu's gaze rarely wanders from a benign, visionary South Africa ruled together by blacks and whites," explained Horn, and "the bishop's preachments [still] have contemporary relevance and ring." Colman McCarthy of Washington Post called the book "stunning" and concluded that Bishop Tutu, even without his Nobel Prize, "would still have been a force that no regime could stop or silence."

In 1994, after the fall of apartheid, Tutu published The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution. A collection of sermons, speeches, and letters, the book charts Tutu's long struggle against apartheid. Michael Novak, reviewing the book in Washington Post Book World, remarked that "these documents show [Tutu] to have been from the first a thinker with a clear, consistent and humane strategic concept, which required constant bravery on his part ... between 1976 and 1994." According to Chicago Tribune Books contributor George Packer, "one has a powerful sense of Tutu's fundamentally sound moral judgment. He never appears to be acting out an idea of himself, and his reactions to crises almost always proved wise, as if no amount of weariness or confusion or rage could poison the core of his character."

Tutu writes about his experiences as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the 1999 book, No Future without Forgiveness. Named to the Commission in 1996 by President Nelson Mandela, Tutu oversaw the implementation of what the Commission saw as restorative rather that retributive justice, hearing thousands of victims and perpetrators describe their experiences during the years of apartheid. The core belief driving the Commission's work was the concept of ubuntu, an African word meaning that a person becomes a true person only through other people. Writing in International Journal of Humanities and Peace, Nelson L. Haggerson noted of the book: "In addition to his own stories about the struggles of the Commission, Tutu uses the stories of the victims and the perpetrators to illuminate the atrocities that had been committed from both points of view. As this process was illustrated it became obvious that the Commission's decision not to follow retributive justice as was done in Nuremberg, or amnesia as happened in Chile after Pinochet, rather restorative justice, was the right path. That path required forgiveness, confessions, repentance, reconciliation, and government paid reparations."

A contributor to African Business noted that in this work Tutu "reveals how his faith sustained him through these hearings, as he played his part in ensuring the new South Africa might meet the challenge of its reconciliation." An African Journal contributor similarly noted: "For those who are interested in resolving conflict, this book provides some insights. For the author, this is rooted in his faith and spirituality." A Publishers Weekly reviewer had praise for this "insightful book," noting that in its pages "Tutu's wisdom and experience come through." Writing in Catholic New Times, Wayne Northey also commended this title, remarking on the "many rich nuggets of wisdom" to be found in it.

Writing with Douglas Abrams in God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, Tutu presents a more personal vision of his life's work, using stories from his private and public life to illustrate the power of faith. He again delves into the power of ubuntu, and looks at goodness as expressed in the Feast of the Transfiguration to demonstrate that the grace and love of God are within the reach of everyone.

"Goodness will prevail, [Tutu] believes, and his small, inspiring, empowering book will make others believe that, too," wrote Booklist reviewer June Sawyers of this work, which is partly culled from Tutu's sermons. A Publishers Weekly contributor praised the intimacy and immediacy of the writing, noting: "Reading this book is like having a long, and somewhat homiletical, afternoon tea with ... Tutu." Similarly, Spirituality and Practice Web site contributors Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat felt that "Desmond Tutu's eloquent and heart-felt writing will resurrect hope in your heart."

Tutu teams up again with Abrams to write for children in God's Dream, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. Here Tutu imagines what God's dreams must be about, depicting a world of forgiveness, tolerance, and caring. To show the concept that we are all one family, throngs of smiling children create a rainbow with their handprints. Caring is demonstrated by a shy youth brought into a friendship circle.

Booklist contributor Hazel Rochman felt this is a "book to talk about at preschool and at home, especially after disagreements flare." A Kirkus Reviews writer also had a high assessment of this picture book, observing that Tutu "shares his philosophy in simple but eloquent words intended for young children." Further praise for God's Dream came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer who thought a "wide range of believers, including children at the younger end of the target audience, should respond to its heartfelt appeals."

In Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference, Tutu writes with his daughter, Mpho A. Tutu, also an Anglican minister, arguing that at heart, humans are basically good. Despite the difficult times he personally lived through and the horror stories he heard as chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he presents an optimistic evaluation of the human condition. Evils such as racism are not inherent or instinctual, he contends; they are learned behaviors. He writes of personal heroes, such as Gandhi and Mother Teresa, but also of his own personal failings, as in his failure to extend forgiveness to his own father before that man's death. "The personal perspective will spark discussion about the bigger issues of morality, politics, and religion," thought Booklist contributor Rochman. A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that "Tutu's humility is striking" in this work.

John Allen edits a selection of Tutu's writings and pronouncements from over four decades in God Is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations. Here Tutu touches on topics from matters of faith such as black theology, to matters of international relations, as in the Palestine-Israel conflict. Other topics include religious and social equality for gays and lesbians and respect between religions. Ray Olson, writing in Booklist, dubbed this work "an ideal calling card for this magnificent apostle of peace and fellowship."




  • Black Literature Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 3, 1992.
  • Cheney, Patricia, Archbishop Desmond Tutu: Man of Peace, Millbrook Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1995.
  • Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 80, 1994.
  • Kunnie, Julian, Models of Black Theology: Issues in Class, Culture, and Gender, Trinity Press International (Harrisburg, PA), 1994.
  • Tlhagale, Buti, and Itumeleng Mosala, editors, Hammering Swords into Ploughshares: Essays in Honor of Archbishop Mpilo Desmond Tutu, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1987.


  • African Business, January, 2000, review of No Future without Forgiveness, p. 42.
  • Anglican Journal, April, 2000, review of No Future without Forgiveness, p. 11.
  • Biography, spring, 2011, Siyabonga Kamnqa, review of Made for Goodness: And Why This Makes All the Difference, p. 416.
  • Booklist, February 15, 2004, June Sawyers, review of God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, p. 1007; August 1, 2008, Hazel Rochman, review of God's Dream, p. 76; March 1, 2010, Hazel Rochman, review of Made for Goodness, p. 33; April 1, 2011, Ray Olson, review of God Is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations, p. 6.
  • Catholic New Times, October 6, 2002, Wayne Northey, review of God Has a Dream, p. 14.
  • Christian Century, July 5, 2000, Sarah Ruden, review of No Future without Forgiveness, p. 722.
  • International Journal of Humanities and Peace, annual, 2000, Nelson L. Haggerson, review of No Future without Forgiveness, p. 107.
  • Kirkus Reviews, August, 15, 2008, review of God's Dream.
  • Library Journal, May 1, 1989, Elise Chase, review of The Words of Desmond Tutu, p. 81; December, 1994, Maidel Cason, review of The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution, p. 99; November 1, 1999, Ann Burns and Emily J. Jones, review of No Future without Forgiveness, p. 108; March 1, 2004, Graham Christian, review of God Has a Dream, p. 86.
  • Library Media Connection, November, 1989, review of The Words of Desmond Tutu, p. 63.
  • Los Angeles Times, January 27, 1985, Huston Horn, review of Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches, p. 2.
  • New Statesman & Society, October 6, 1995, review of The Rainbow People of God, p. 37.
  • Observer (London, England), May 8, 1983, interview with Desmond M. Tutu; August 28, 1994, review of The Rainbow People of God, p. 19.
  • People, December 17, 1984, Joshua Hammer, profile of Desmond M. Tutu.
  • Publishers Weekly, September 27, 1999, review of No Future without Forgiveness, p. 94; December 15, 2003, review of God Has a Dream, p. 67; July 7, 2008, review of God's Dream, p. 57; February 8, 2010, review of Made for Goodness, p. 45.
  • Reading Time, February, 2009, Anne Hanzl, review of God's Dream, p. 19.
  • Rolling Stone, November 21, 1985, Marc Cooper and Greg Goldin, profile of Desmond M. Tutu.
  • Times Higher Education Supplement, September 22, 2000, review of No Future without Forgiveness, p. 23.
  • Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), December 18, 1994, George Packer, review of The Rainbow People of God, p. 3.
  • Washington Post, January 20, 1985, Colman McCarthy, review of Hope and Suffering.
  • Washington Post Book World, October 2, 1994, Michael Novak, review of The Rainbow People of God, p. 1.
  • World Press Review, January, 1995, review of The Rainbow People of God, p. 10.


  • Clarion Journal Online, (June 9, 2006), Wayne Northey, review of No Future without Forgiveness.
  • Desmond Tutu Peace Centre Web site, (May 4, 2012), "About Desmond and Leah Tutu."
  • Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation Web site, (May 4, 2012), "About Desmond Tutu."
  • Nobel Prize Web site, (May 4, 2012), Desmond Tutu biography.
  • Spirituality and Practice, (May 4, 2012), Frederic Brussat and Mary Ann Brussat, review of Made for Goodness and God Has a Dream.*


Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1000100474