Biography 1999 Wilberforce Medallion winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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Desmond Tutu was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa.  After three years as a high school teacher he began to study theology, being ordained as a priest in 1960.

In 1948 the National Party was elected to power in South Africa.  They called for apartheid and wasted no time in enacting new laws that made racial prejudice, segregation, and oppression the central focus of Government policy.

In 1975 Tutu was elected the Dean of Johannesburg.  Being in a very public position, every speech he made was heard and quoted all over the world.  He warned that without justice and freedom for blacks, all South Africans, both black and white faced a terrible and bloody future.

In 1979 Tutu called for sanctions against South Africa.  He was accused of being a traitor but always defended himself saying it was the only way to protest non-violently.  Abroad, anti-apartheid movements sprung up in many countries.  In 1961 South Africa was forced to withdraw from the Commonwealth because of apartheid.  During the 1960’s and 1970’s there were calls for international sanctions, especially boycotts of sporting and cultural links, extending to trade and finance in the 1980’s.

On October 15, 1984 Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace prize.  It was given as a sign of support for all individuals and groups in South Africa who, with their concerns for human dignity, fraternity, and democracy, incited the admiration of the world.

Before the award ceremony it was announced that Tutu had been elected Archbishop of Johannesburg.  In 1986 he attained the highest position in the South African Anglican Church when he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town.

In 1991 the key elements of apartheid legislation were repealed and by 1993 apartheid had virtually ceased to exist in South Africa.