future cape town

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October 7th 1931: Desmond Tutu born

On this day in 1931 the future Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Mpilo Tutu, was born in Klerksdorp, South Africa. Tutu grew up during apartheid, when racial segregation was rigidly enforced and black Africans were denied their basic rights. After almost dying from tuberculosis aged 12, the exceptionally intelligent Tutu resolved to become a doctor. However, unable to afford medical school tuition, he studied education and became a teacher. Tutu became increasingly frustrated with the racism that discriminated against and stifled himself and his students. In 1957 he left education, and in 1960 was ordained as an Anglican deacon. Tutu studied theology in London and taught in universities before becoming the first black Anglican dean of Johannesburg in 1975, a position he used as a platform to articulate the plight of blacks in the apartheid system. He continued to rise through the South African church and received increased international attention for his anti-apartheid efforts, including receiving a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. The 1993 end of South African apartheid was received with joy around the world and many credited Tutu’s advocacy as an important contributor to this outcome. In 1994 Tutu introduced South Africa to its newly elected President Nelson Mandela, who appointed Tutu to lead a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Desmond Tutu officially retired from public life in the late 1990s but continues to be an advocate for social justice, equality and humanitarian causes around the world. Some of the issues he has championed since his retirement include the fight against HIV/AIDS, battling homophobia, and protecting the environment.

Today, Desmond Tutu turns 83 years old.