Desmond Tutu Biography

Desmond Mpilo Tutu was a prominent South African Bishop, Theologian, social activist, and author, who played a leading role in the anti-apartheid movement.

He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and served as the first black Archbishop of Cape Town. Tutu is known for his advocacy of nonviolence, and his work in promoting peace and social justice in South Africa.

Desmond Tutu Biography

Full Name Desmond Mpilo Tutu
Birthdate October 7, 1931
Birthplace Klerksdorp, South Africa
Education Saint Martin’s School <br> University of South Africa <br> King’s College London
Spouse Nomalizo Leah Shenxane
Children Trevor Thamsanqa <br> Theresa Thandeka <br> Naomi Nontombi <br> Mpho Andrea
Known for Bishop, Theologian, social activist, and author
Ordination Deacon (1960), Priest (1961)
Consecration 1976
Church Anglican Church of Southern Africa
Archbishop of Cape Town 1986 – 1996
Awards and Recognitions Nobel Peace Prize (1984)
Death December 26, 2021 (Cape Town, South Africa)

Early Life And Education

Desmond Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa on October 7, 1931, to Zachariah Zelilo Tutu and Allen Dorothea Mavoertsek Mathlare.

Though his family were Methodists, they later switched to the Anglican Church.

Tutu attended several schools due to his family’s frequent moves, and completed his pre-university education at Johannesburg Bantu High School.

He trained as a teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College and graduated from UNISA in 1954. After teaching for three years, he studied Theology and became a priest in 1960.

Tutu furthered his theological education at King’s College London from 1962 to 1966, where he met Nelson Mandela.

Tutu had a passion for reading, rugby, and working at his local church.

He was greatly influenced by English Anglican Bishop Trevor Huddleston, and worked various odd jobs, including selling oranges and working as a caddie for golfers, to earn money.

He volunteered at St. Paul’s Church as a Sunday school teacher, choirmaster, and lay preacher, as well as serving as a football administrator for a local team.


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Ordination And Anti-apartheid

Desmond Tutu and his wife left the teaching profession. Tutu then became an Anglican priest with the support of Trevor Huddleston.

He earned a Licentiate of Theology degree at St. Peter’s Theological College and became an assistant curate at St Alban’s Parish, Benoni, earning two-thirds of what white counterparts were paid.

Tutu was later transferred to St Philip’s Church in Thokoza and developed a passion for pastoral ministry. He also studied Greek and Arabic languages at St. George’s College in East Jerusalem.

In 1967, Tutu returned to South Africa and became the first black staff member at the newly established Federal Theological Seminary, where he taught doctrine, the Old Testament, and Greek.

Tutu joined a pan-protestant group, published academic journals, and supported the Black Consciousness Movement.

He later joined the University of Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland as a teacher, and became an external examiner for Fedsem and Rhodes University.

Tutu then relocated to England as the director of Africa for the TEF. He toured many regions during this time and wrote about his experiences.

Tutu became the curate of St. Augustine’s Church in Groove Park, where his family settled.

He was later elected as the dean of St Mary’s Cathedral, Johannesburg, becoming the first black man on the fourth highest position in South Africa’s Anglican hierarchy.

Tutu’s appointment as the Dean of St. Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg gave him hope for a racially integrated future in South Africa.

He used his position to address social issues and spoke out against apartheid policies.

Tutu also met with Black Consciousness and Soweto leaders, and organized a 24-hour vigil at the cathedral to pray for activists detained under the Terrorism Act.

In 1976, Tutu was nominated and elected as the Bishop of Lesotho, where he maintained a strained relationship with the government but befriended the royal family.

He attended the funeral of Black Consciousness activist Steve Biko and was nominated and appointed as the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches (SACC), becoming the first black leader of the organization.

As the leader of SACC, Tutu introduced a schedule of daily staff prayers, Bible study, and silent retreats.

He was determined to make SACC one of South Africa’s most visible human rights advocacy organizations and gained recognition for his efforts, receiving honorary doctorates from various universities.

Personal Life

Desmond Tutu was baptised into the Methodist Church in June 1932 and confirmed at St Mary’s Church in Roodepoort at the age of 12.

Later, he began a relationship with his sister’s friend, Nomalizo Leah Shenxane, and the couple married in June 1955 at Krugersdorp Native Commissioner’s Court.

Due to Leah’s Roman Catholic faith, they also had a Roman Catholic wedding ceremony at the Church of Mary Queen of Apostles. Together, they had four children: Trevor Thamsanqa, Theresa Thandeka, Naomi Nontombi, and Mpho Andrea.


  • Crying in the Wilderness
  •  Hope and Suffering: Sermons and Speeches
  •  The War Against Children: South Africa’s Youngest Victims
  • The Words of Desmond Tutu
  •  The Rainbow People of God: The Making of a Peaceful Revolution
  • Worshipping Church in Africa
  • The Essential Desmond Tutu
  •  No Future Without Forgiveness
  • An African Prayerbook
  • God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time
  •  Desmond and the Very Mean Word
  • The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World
  • The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World.


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Desmond Tutu Quotes

Desmond Tutu is known for his inspiring words that promote peace, justice, and equality. Here are some of his famous quotes, written professionally:

  1. “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

This quote emphasizes the importance of taking a stand against injustice rather than remaining passive or neutral.

  1. “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”

In this quote, Tutu highlights the importance of hope in difficult times and encourages people to focus on the positive even in the midst of challenging circumstances.

  1. “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.”

This quote reflects Tutu’s commitment to promoting inclusivity and acceptance of all people, regardless of their background or identity.

  1. “Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.”

Tutu’s quote on forgiveness highlights the transformative power of this act, both for the person who forgives and the person who is forgiven.

  1. “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

This quote encourages people to take action in their own lives and communities, recognizing that small acts of kindness and compassion can add up to make a significant impact on the world.

  1. “Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument.”

This quote speaks to the importance of thoughtful and constructive dialogue, rather than resorting to yelling or aggression. Tutu encourages people to engage in meaningful conversations and make their points effectively through well-reasoned arguments.

  1. “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.”

In this quote, Tutu emphasizes the interconnectedness of all people and the importance of recognizing our shared humanity. He encourages people to work together to create a better world for all.

  1. “The only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.”

This quote speaks to the importance of breaking down big tasks or challenges into smaller, manageable pieces. Tutu encourages people to take things one step at a time and stay focused on making progress, no matter how small.

  1. “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.”

Tutu’s quote on being a rainbow emphasizes the importance of spreading joy and positivity to others, even in difficult times. He encourages people to be a source of light and hope for those around them.

  1. “Peace is not the absence of conflict, but the ability to navigate it.”

This quote speaks to the importance of conflict resolution and the need to learn how to work through disagreements in a constructive way. Tutu encourages people to develop the skills necessary to navigate conflict in a way that promotes peace and understanding.


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