Albert Luthuli

Robert Trent Vinson. Albert Luthuli.

Featured Picture: JRamatsui, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

(Athens, OH:  Ohio University Press, 2018)

As Robert Vinson highlights “When Albert Luthuli;  president of the African National Congress (ANC).  South Africa’s leading anti apartheid organization;  became the first African-born recipe ant of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1961;  the world celebrated his advocacy of nonviolent civil disobedience.  The prize signaled international recognition for his Gandhian strategy to end apartheid;  South Africa’s disastrous white supremist political policy of racial subordination;  and separation and connected South Africa’s antiapartheid struggle to the growing global human rights campaigns. 

It propelled Luthuli to global celebrity and raised the profile of the ANC;  which he had led since 1952. The ANC would survive lethal state repression in the late 1960s;   and throughout two ensuing decades.  As a mass organization, it articulated a broad;  inclusive African nationalism and led the Congress Alliance, a multiracial; milti-ideological antiapartheid coalition that shared Luthuli’s vision of a nonracial, democratic, equitable South Africa.

Albert Lutuli

Albert Luthuli: Unknown authorUnknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

A  Vision of Universal Love and Christian-Based Activism.

Both Albert Luthuli and Martin Luther King shared a vision of universal love and Christian-based activism;  against the moral evil of racism. Yet for both men;  there were followers for whom nonviolence  was a technique that could be set aside;  if violence produced better or faster results. On the night of 13 December;  1961 as Luthuli and his wife returned to South Africa after his Nobel address;  a new formation of ANC members created a new group;  Spear of the Nation;  set off explosive charges that marked the start of what for some became an armed struggle.

Albert Luthuli (1898 – 1967 );  was the son of a Protestant minister;  but who died when Albert was six months old.  He was brought up by the family of his mother;  which held responsible position in the Christian Zulu milieu.  He did his higher studies to become a teacher and a trainer of teachers. He was active in the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA);  and made life-long friends in the Christian activist milieu.

A Positive Model of Multiracial Democracy.

In 1948;  the unexpected victory of the National Party made apartheid official state policy.  In June 1948;  Luthuli traveled to the United States for seven months;  speaking to churches, civic groups and others.  He returned to South Africa;  hoping that African Americans would triumph over segregation laws;  and that the U.S.  would become a positive model of multiracial democracy.  

Luthuli  became a national political figure during the 1952;  Defiance Campaign based on Gandhi’s active nonviolence.  Yet escalating State violence marked the 1950s.  Younger militants willing to consider armed “self-defense” surged to the fore.

By the mod-1960s;  the balance between a nonviolent strategy and a willingness to use force;  had shifted in favor of the use of violence.  However;  on 25 February 1990;  two weeks after his liberty was restored;  Nelson Mandela addresses a mass rally in Durban;  hoping to stem the rising tide of violence between the ANC  supporters;  and the rival Inkatha Freedom Party led by Mangosu Buthelazi. Speaking of a united South Africa;  Mandela invoked Lutjuli’s prophetic words:

I personally believe that here in South Africa with our own diversities of color and race, we will show the world a new pattern for democracy.”

It is important today to recall the quality of Luthuli’s leadership;  his services to the disposseded  and his collaborative leadership style.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

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