Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1984 (South Africa)
In 1978 Desmond Tutu accepted an appointment as the 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. He emphasized nonviolent means of protest and encouraged the application of economic pressure by countries dealing with South Africa. The award of the 1984 Nobel Prize for Peace to Tutu sent a significant message to South African Pres. P.W. Botha’s administration. In 1985, at the height of the township rebellions in South Africa, Tutu was installed as Johannesburg’s first black Anglican bishop, and in 1986 he was elected the first black archbishop of Cape Town, thus becoming the primate of South Africa’s 1.6 million-member Anglican church. In 1988 Tutu took a position as chancellor of the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, South Africa. During South Africa’s moves toward democracy in the early 1990s, Desmond Tutu propagated the idea of South Africa as “the Rainbow Nation,” and he continued to comment on events with varying combinations of trenchancy and humor. In 1995 South African Pres. Nelson Mandela appointed Desmond Tutu head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated allegations of human rights abuses during the apartheid era.
Desmond Tutu retired from the primacy in 1996 and became archbishop emeritus. In July 2010 he announced his intention to effectively withdraw from public life in October, though he said he would continue his work with the Elders, a group of international leaders he cofounded in 2007 for the promotion of conflict resolution and problem solving throughout the world. On October 7, 2010—his 79th birthday—he began his retirement.