Albert Luthuli - a brief profile

Albert John Luthuli was born around 1898 in Bulawayo (Zimbabwe) where his father was a catechist teacher. His ancestral home was the Umvoti Mission Reserve. In 1908 the Luthuli family returned to Natal and settled in Vryheid. In order to obtain an education Luthuli went to live with his uncle at Groutville, where his early schooling was at the American Board Mission school. In 1917 he qualified as a teacher at Edenvale and was principal of Blaauwbosch intermediary school for two years. In 1920 he received a bursary to study at Adams College and in 1922 joined the College's staff as a lecturer at the Teachers Training College. In 1928 he was elected secretary of the African Teacher Association and founder of the Zulu Language and Culture Society.

In 1933 some elders of the tribe approached Luthuli and asked him to consider succeeding his uncle as chief. Although the position of chief meant a vast reduction in his salary Luthuli decided that service to his community came first and he left teaching in 1935 to act as the elected chief at Groutville from 1 January 1936. In an attempt to improve the economy of Groutville he helped to revive the Groutville Cane Growers Association. Between 1945 and 1948 he was elected to the Natal executive of the Native Representative Council. In 1952 he was deposed as Chief by Government decree.

The strongest single influence on Luthuli's life and thoughts came from his Christian commitment. He was a lay preacher in the local congregation. For many years he served as chairman of the Congregational churches of the American Board Mission and became chairman of the Natal Missionary Conference. He also served on the executive committee of the Christian Council of South Africa, the forerunner of the South African Council of Churches. Luthuli stressed "sacrificial service" and dedicated his life to the cause and service of his fellow men.

In 1945 he joined the African National Congress and was elected to the executive committee of the Natal branch and in May 1951 was elected as President of the branch. On 16 December 1952 he was elected President- General of the ANC: a position he held until the organisation was banned in March 1960. Following a policy of non-violence Luthuli led the defiance campaign against unjust laws in 1952. In the same year a banning order restricted him to the Lower Tugela District for two years. The ban was extended in 1954 for two years. In 1956 he was arrested on a charge of treason but after a drawn out trial, charges were withdrawn. He was arrested in 1960 after the protest following the Sharpeville massacre. He was banned in 1962 and again in 1964. However, he courageously continued his political work. In October 1961 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 1960, Albert Luthuli died tragically on 21 July 1967.



"In Africa, as our contribution to peace, we are resolved to end such evils as oppression, white supremacy and racial discrimination, all of which are incompatible with world peace and security."

"But now the revolutionary strings of our continent are setting the past aside. Our people everywhere, from north to south of the continent are reclaiming their land, their right to participate in government, their dignity as men, their nationhood. Thus in the turmoil of revolution, the basis for peace and brotherhood in Africa being restored by the resurrection of national sovereignty and independence, of equality and the dignity of man."

"The world is now a neighbourhood, although unfortunately, people are not sufficiently neighbourly. We suffer at the present time from an over stress nationalism. Each such ultra-nationalist group seeks domination over others. I would like to see a South Africa that takes a serious interest in establishing peace and friendship in the world and not merely paying lip service to these important needs of man."

"Humanity longs for the time when the great Powers of the world will become great at heart and curb their ambitions, and pave the way for the settling of their differences in a statesman-like manner and so remove the threat of war."

"… no true peace and progress can be secured in any country as long as there are others in that country denied full democratic rights and duties."


"As for myself, with a full sense of responsibility and a clear conviction, I decided to remain in the struggle for extending democratic rights and responsibilities to all sections of the South African community. I have embraced the non-violent Passive Resistance technique in fighting for freedom because I am convinced it is the only non-revolutionary, legitimate and humane way that could be used by people denied, as we are, effective constitutional means to further aspirations."

"We must fight on in all fronts along the path of non-violence and when, at times, the human weakness of despondency assails us, let us gain courage and inspiration, not only in the justice of our cause, but in its universality in all ages. We should be stirred to greater effort by the knowledge that it is our undeserved honour and privilege to be numbered among the followers of the heroes of freedom of all lands and ages: men and women who have so meritoriously championed the cause of freedom."

"Non-violent resistance in any provocative situation is our best instrument. Our strongest weapon is to acquaint our people and the world with the facts of our situation. No doubt we shall be accused of inciting the people and labelled as agitators and communists. We should never be deterred from our path of duty to our people and our country by these accusations. We should rest content in the conviction that we are here performing a divine duty when we struggle for freedom."

"Africa likes to enjoy peace, prosperity and freedom and would like to day itself with those forces of peace and freedom and so, does not like to be made a war zone in any war that warmongers may plunge the world in."

"We can assure the world that it is our intention to keep on the non-violent plane. We would earnestly request the powers that be to make it possible for us to keep our people in this mood."


"Laws and conditions that tend to debase human personality - a God-given force - be they brought about by the State or other individuals, must be relentlessly opposed in the spirit of defiance shown by St. Peter when he said to the rulers of his day. "Shall we obey God or Man?"

"Let us set our spirit and conscience attune with the spirit of Divine Discontent that is within us and together with freedom-loving people elsewhere serve faithfully the cause of Freedom in the world in general, and in South Africa in particular, and so help our beloved South Africa to March honourably with the rest of the democratic world to the final liberation of all mankind."

"It may well be that South Africa's social system is a monument to racialism and race oppression, but its people are living testimony to the unconquerable spirit of mankind. Down the years, against, seemingly overwhelming odds, they have sought the goals of fuller life and liberty, striving with incredible determination and fortitude for the right to live as men - free men."

"A regime that flouts world opinion cannot last. Nor will such a regime endure, when many of it's own citizens are resolute and pledged to work for that end even at the cost of limitless sacrifice. For we are steeled by oppression and the daily sight of human values being ground underfoot only makes us cherish even more those values."


"The germ of freedom is in every individual, in anyone who is a human being. In fact the history of mankind is the history of man struggling and striving for freedom, indeed the very apex of human achievement is FREEDOM and not slavery."

"Friends, let us make no mistake, the road to freedom is always full of difficulties. Before we reach the summit of freedom, many will have fallen by the wayside as a result of enemy action, and others as through personal despondency may abandon the fight. But I call upon you as the true son of South Africa to be true to Africa, and count no sacrifice too great for her redemption."

'Let us march together to freedom saying: The road to freedom may be long and thorny but because our cause is just, the glorious end - Freedom - is ours".

"Our interest in freedom is not confined to ourselves only. We are interested in the liberation of the oppressed in the whole of Africa and in the world as a whole."

"Those of us who are in the freedom struggle in this country have really only one gospel. We may possibly shade it in different ways, but it is a gospel of democracy and freedom."