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 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.