Remarkable People

ID #5244

Desmond Tutu 2 Early Years.

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, the second child and only son of Zacheriah Tutu and his wife Aletta in 1931.  His family moved to Johannesburg when he was twelve. His father was a teacher and his mother a cleaner and cook at a school for the blind. Here he met Trevor Huddleston who was a parish priest in Sophiatown. "One day," said Tutu, "I was standing in the street with my mother when a white man in a priest's clothing walked past. As he passed us he took off his hat to my mother. I couldn't believe my eyes – a white man who greeted a black working class woman!"

Although Tutu wanted to become a physician, his family could not afford the training and he followed in his father's footsteps into teaching. Tutu studied at the Pretoria Bantu Normal College from 1951 to 1953, and went on to teach at the Johannesburg Bantu High School and at Munsieville High School in Mogale City (Krugersdorp). However, he resigned following passage of the Bantu Education Act in protest at the poor educational prospects for blacks. He continued his studies, this time in theology, at St Peter's Theology College in Johannesburg and in 1960 was ordained as an Anglican priest, following in the footsteps of his mentor and fellow activist, Trevor Huddleston.

Tutu then traveled to King's College London, (1962–1966) where he received his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Theology. During this time he worked as a part-time curate, first at St. Alban's Church in Golders Green, and later at St. Mary's Church in Bletchingley, Surrey.

He returned to South Africa and from 1967-1972 used his lectures to highlight the circumstances of the black population. He wrote a letter to Prime Minister B. J. Vorster, in which he described the situation in South Africa as a "powder barrel that can explode at any time" which was never answered.  In 1967 he became chaplain at the University of Fort Hare, a hotbed of dissent.  From 1970-1972, Tutu lectured at the National University of Lesotho.

In 1972, Tutu returned to the UK, where he was appointed vice-director of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches at Bromley in Kent. He returned to South Africa in 1975 and was appointed Anglican Dean of St. Mary's Cathedral in Johannesburg -— the first black to hold that position.

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Last update: 2014-03-17 02:33
Author: Alan McIver
Revision: 1.2

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