NewsNational News


Remembering Archbishop Desmond Tutu's impact

Desmond Tutu
Posted at 6:20 PM, Dec 27, 2021

The world has lost a champion for civil rights. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa died Sunday. He was 90 and had been battling prostate cancer since the late 1990s.

Teresa Barnes, the Director of the Center for African Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Campaign, says The Arch, as he was known, will be remembered for speaking up against inequality.

“He’s one of those great souls who will be profoundly missed in the world," Barnes said. "[He] really gained international prominence, I would say in the early 80s as a person who stood for the need to end apartheid in South Africa which was the system of severe racial segregation there that limited all of the opportunities and world views of people of color.”

Barnes says he rose through the ranks of the Anglican church and World Council of Church, always standing up for marginalized people.

“When it came to LGBTQ rights, he was an uncompromising voice, and he would have said that we are all God’s children,” Barnes said.

In his autobiography, Archbishop Tutu described himself as a rabble-rouser for peace. Thula Simpson is an associate professor who studies south African history at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

“His trajectory of mixing religion with politics led him to receive a Nobel Peace Prize award in 1984,” Simpson said.

Simpson says Desmond Tutu put his life on the line in opposition to the apartheid South African government.

“He was like that," Simpson said. "He was the first on taking positions of principle that were unpopular at the time, but subsequently and quite quickly actually they were seen as being the correct moral positions.”

Simpson says he and the country of South Africa will remember Archbishop Tutu as a genuinely good man who wanted to give South Africa a different identity – one based on reconciliation and cooperation between other racial groups.

“He said we can view ourselves as being different, we can view ourselves as being the sum of all of these parts, strengthened by that," Simpson said. "A ‘Rainbow Nation’ under God.”

Simpson says Archbishop Tutu coined the term 'Rainbow Nation.'

“I see that South Africa is planning seven days of mourning for him, and that is very appropriate," Barnes said. "They’re going to light Table Mountain, which is this magnificent mountain range that runs right through the middle of Cape Town. They’re going to light it in purple.”

The mayor of Cape Town says purple is the color synonymous with Archbishop Tutu.