The government of South Africa did not extend the rights of citizenship to black South Africans. The National Party had risen to power on the promise of instituting a system of apartheid -- complete separation of the races. All South Africans were legally assigned to an official racial group; each races was restricetd to separate living areas and separate public facilities. Only white South Africans were permitted to vote in national elections. Black South Africans were only represented in the local governments of remote "tribal homelands." Interracial marriage was forbidden, blacks were legally barred from certain jobs and prohibited from forming labor unions. Passports were required for travel within the country; critics of the system could be banned from speaking in public and subjected to house arrest.
Desmond Tutu lived in England from 1962 to 1966, where he earned a master's degree in theology. He taught theology in South Africa for the next five years, and returned to England to serve as an assistant director of the World Council of Churches in London. In 1975 he became the first black African to serve as Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg. From 1976 to 1978 he was Bishop of Lesotho. In 1978 he became the first black General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.
In 1984, Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace, "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."
Two years later, Desmond Tutu was elected Archbishop of Cape Town. He was the first black African to serve in this position, which placed him at the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa, as the Archbishop of Canterbury is spiritual leader of the Church of England. International economic pressure and internal dissent forced the South African government to reform. In 1990, Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress was released after almost 27 years in prison. The following year the government began the repeal of racially discriminatory laws.
In 2007, Desmond Tutu joined former South African President Mandela, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, retired U.N Secretary General Kofi Annan, and former Irish President Mary Robinson to form The Elders, a private initiative mobilizing the experience of senior world leaders outside of the conventional diplomatic process. Tutu was named to chair the group. Carter and Tutu have traveled together to Darfur, Gaza and Cyprus in an effort to resolve long-standing conflicts. Desmond Tutu's historic accomplishments -- and his continuing efforts to promote peace in the world -- were formally recognized by the United States in 2009, when President Barack Obama named him to receive the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
life and work. Listen to former South Africa President,
Nelson Mandela, Peace Prize winners and others speak about
the profound leadership of Archbishop Tutu in post
apartheid South Africa from the film, "Just Call Me Arch."