Desmond Tutu is a renowned activist from South Africa. In this biography, we have provided information about his childhood, life and timeline.

Quick Facts
Famous as
Outspoken critic of apartheid
Born on
07 October 1931    Famous 7th October Birthdays
Zodiac Sign
Libra    Libra Men
Born in
Zachariah Tutu
Leah Nomalizo Tutu
Trevor Thamsanqa, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi, Mpho Andrea
King's College London
University of South Africa (1954)
St. Martin's School
Tutu Foundation for Development and Relief
1987 - Pacem in Terris Award
1992 - Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award
2010 - Nautilus Book Award
More Awards
1996 - Archbishop of Canterbury's Award for Outstanding Service to the Anglican Communion
2009 - Spiritual Leadership Award
1984 - Nobel Peace Prize award
Desmond Tutu
Image Source :

Desmond Tutu is a well-known South African activist, whose efforts to solve the issue of apartheid, during 1980s, fetched him worldwide fame. Born in 1931, in Klerksdorp, Tutu chose teaching as his profession. After serving as a lecturer for few years, he pursued Theology. He was the first black person to become the Archbishop of Cape Town. He also became the first black Bishop of Johannesburg. Tutu is the second South African to receive Noble Peace Prize. Tutu became the voice of the ‘voiceless’ black people, who suffered from racial discrimination in South Africa. His lectures and writings at home and abroad played a significant role in solving the issue of apartheid. Apart from this, Desmond Tutu has organized several campaigns to fight AIDS, poverty and racism. The Noble laureate has compiled several books of his speeches and sayings. Desmond Tutu was the head of Truth and Reconciliation Commission and at present, is the chairperson of ‘The Elders’.

Born on 7th October 1931, in Klerksdorp, as a Methodist, Desmond Tutu became an Anglican when his family changed religions. He moved with his family to Johannesburg when he was 12 years old. In Johannesburg, Tutu came across Anglican priest Trevor Huddleston, who was strictly against apartheid, the system of legal racial separation. Tutu was influenced by Huddleston and considered the priest as his role model. Although Tutu wanted to become a physician, his family could not afford the training. Hence, he decided to follow the path of his father and chose teaching as his profession.
Desmond Tutu studied at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College, from 1951 through 1953, and pursued a diploma in teaching. After completing the course, he went on to teach at Johannesburg Bantu High School for three years, till 1957. Following the implementation of Bantu Education Act 1953, which deteriorated the standard of black education and reduced it to second rate, Tutu resigned from the job, in protest of poor academic conditions of the black South Africans.
Desmond Tutu then continued his studies and pursued Theology at St Peter’s Theology College in Rosettenville. Following in the footsteps of his role model and fellow activist Trevor Huddleson, he became an Anglican priest in 1960. Tutu traveled to London to continue further studies, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Theology.
After acquiring education, Desmond Tutu returned to South Africa. He used his lectures to highlight the miserable conditions of the black population in the country. Tutu served as a lecturer from 1970 to 1974, at the University of Lesotho, Botswana. He was appointed as the Anglican Dean of Johannesburg in 1975. He used his position to challenge the white rule publicly. From 1976 to 1978, Tutu served as the Bishop of Lesotho and in 1978, became the Secretary-General of South African Council of Churches. After a year, he was chosen as the Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. He became the first black Bishop of Johannesburg in 1985.
Personal Life
Desmond Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane in 1955. Their four children - Trevor Thamsanqa Tutu, Theresa Thandeka Tutu, Naomi Nontombi Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, studied at Waterford Kamhlaba School, in Swaziland. Desmond Tutu was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer in 1997. Consequently, he became the patron of South African Prostate Cancer Foundation, which was established in 2007. Tutu is a beholder of a number of honorary degrees, earned from prestigious universities across the world.
Tutu’s Fight Against Apartheid
Desmond Tutu was one of the outspoken critics of apartheid - the system of legal racial separation. He used his position as the Bishop of Lesotho to work against it. Students’ rebellion against apartheid started in Soweto, in 1976. This protest came to be known as ‘Soweto Riots’. Tutu played his part by supporting an ‘economic’ boycott of his country. He also fought against the racial discrimination by constantly preaching reconciliation between different parties associated with apartheid, through his writings and lectures at home and abroad. 
Later Life
On September 7, 1986, Desmond Tutu became the first black person to become the head of Anglican Church in South Africa. He was invited to Birmingham, England, as part of Citywide Christian Celebrations in 1989. His wife accompanied him to visit various establishments, such as Nelson Mandela School in Sparkbrook. South Africa’s first multi-racial elections were held in 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected as country’s first black President. He appointed Tutu as the chairperson of Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
In order to devote his time to the TRC, Tutu took retirement from the position of Archbishop of Cape town, in 1996. After a year, although he announced that he would undergo several months of treatment for prostate cancer in the United States, he continued to work for TRC. Tutu returned to United Kingdom in 2004 to serve as a visiting professor at King’s College. In the present time, although he is still suffering from cancer, he travels extensively across different places and works for fair causes, in and out of his country.   
Desmond Tutu’s extensive efforts to support noble causes have fetched him a number of prestigious awards. Tutu was awarded the highly coveted Noble Peace Prize in 1984, for his contribution towards resolving the issue of apartheid. Three years later, he was awarded the 'Pacem in Terris' Award. He won the 'Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award' in 1992 and in 1999; Tutu was entitled to the 'Sydney Peace Prize'. He also won Gandhi Peace Prize in 2005 and received the Lincoln Leadership Prize in 2008.


1931 :

Desmond Mpilo Tutu is born at Klerksdorp, 120 miles (193 km) from Johannesburg

1954 :

Receives teacher's diploma

1955 :

Marries Leah Nomalizo Shenxane

1958 :

Resigns from teaching, to begin ordination training at St Peters Theological College, in Johannesburg

1960 :

Becomes an Anglican priest

1962 :

Travels to England to further pursue theological study

1967 :

Returns to South Africa to teach at the Federal Theological Seminary at Alice on the Eastern Cape

1970 :

Lectures in theology at the University of Botswana in Roma, Lesotho

1975 :

Becomes first black Anglican Dean of Johannesburg

1978 :

Appointed as the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches

1984 :

Gets Nobel peace prize for speaking out against apartheid

1985 :

Elected as Johannesburg's first black Anglican bishop

1986 :

Elected as first black Archbishop of Cape Town

1995 :

Leads Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to gather evidence of apartheid-era crimes

2007 :

Presented with the International Gandhi Peace Prize

2008 :

Travels to Gaza on a UN mission, to investigate the killing of 21 Palestinian civilians, by Israeli shelling, in November 2006.

Pictures of Desmond Tutu

Would You Like To Discuss Or Comment On Desmond Tutu?

Books by Desmond Tutu

    God Has a Dream Unabridged Audio

    by Desmond Tutu

    Desmond and the Very Mean Word

    by Desmond Tutu

    Made for Goodness and Why This Makes All the Difference

    by Desmond Tutu

Books About Desmond Tutu

    The South African Story With Archbishop Desmond Tutu

    by Roger Friedman

    The Wisdom of Desmond Tutu

    by Michael Battle

    Believe: The Words and Inspiration of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Me-We)

    by A Blue Mountain Arts Collection

Recommended Profiles

Nelson Mandela
(South African)
Jacob Zuma
(South African)
Albert John Luthuli
(South African)
Guru Nanak
Cite This