- Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
International Civil Rights: Walk of Fame
Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu
1925 - present

A world-renowned South African Anglican cleric and human rights activist, Bishop Desmond Tutu's work to end apartheid gained international attention and served as a basis for his being awarded the Noble Peace Prize (1984). In June 1976 after police killed youths in Soweto as they protested the repressive Bantu education system, the Anglican cleric supported the economic boycott of South Africa. At the time, he was Bishop of Lesotho (1976-1978). After he became the first black Secretary-General of the South African Council of Churches (1978-1985), Tutu joined Reverend Alan Boesak in the creation of the United Democratic Front (1983), an organization that called for the government to abolish apartheid and eliminate the homelands. After the defeat of apartheid in 1990, South Africa held its first multi-racial elections in 1994. Newly elected President Nelson Mandela appointed Archbishop Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, investigating the human rights violations of the previous 34 years.

At the age of 12, Desmond moved to Johannesburg with his family. Though he wanted to be a physician, his family could not afford to send him to medical school. Desmond became a teacher like his father instead. He attended Bantu Normal College (1951-1953), earning a Teacher's Diploma. For the next several years Tutu taught high school. In 1958 Tutu began to study theology; two years later he was ordained a Deacon in the Anglican Church. From 1962-66 Tutu studied and taught theology in England (1962-1966) and earned a Master of Theology degree. He taught theology in South Africa (1967-1972). Then in 1975, he was appointed Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg, the first black to hold that position.

Tutu continues to speak out on human rights issues. He has called on Israel to respect the human dignity of the Palestinians. He has been critical of the War in Iraq, calling it an immoral war that has made the world less safe. Tutu is married to Leah Nomalizo and they have four children: Trevor Thamsanqa, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi, Mpho Andrea.