Desmond Tutu, South African racial justice activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and retired Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, died on Sunday at the age of 90.
An uncompromising enemy of apartheid, the brutally oppressive South African regime once again black majority, Tutu worked tirelessly, but without violence, for its downfall.
Here is a timeline of Tutu’s life:
1931: Tutu was born in Klerksdorp, a town about 170 km (105 miles) west of Johannesburg.
1943: Tutu’s Methodist family joined the Anglican Church.
1947: Tutu falls ill with tuberculosis while studying at a secondary school near Sophiatown, Johannesburg. He befriends a priest and serves in his church after recovering from an illness.
1948: The White National Party launches apartheid in the run-up to the 1948 national elections. It is gaining popular support among white voters who want to maintain their dominance over the black majority.
1955: Tutu married Nomalizo Leah Shenxane and began teaching at a high school in Johannesburg where his father was the principal.
1958: Tutu leaves school, refusing to be part of an education system that promotes inequality against black students. He joins the priesthood.
1962: Tutu moved to Great Britain to study theology at King’s College London.
1966: Tutu returned to South Africa and began teaching theology at a seminary in the Eastern Cape. He is also beginning to make his views against apartheid known.
1975: Tutu becomes Johannesburg’s first black Anglican dean.
1980: As general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Tutu leads a delegation of religious leaders to meet with Prime Minister PW Botha, urging him to end apartheid. While nothing came out of the meeting, it is a historic moment when a black leader clashes with a senior white government official. The government confiscates Tutu’s passport.
1984: Tutu receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end the domination of the white minority.
1985: Tutu becomes Johannesburg’s first black bishop. He publicly supports an economic boycott of South Africa and civil disobedience as a means to dismantle apartheid.
1986: Tutu becomes the first black man to be appointed Bishop of Cape Town and head of the Anglican Church in the province of Southern Africa. Along with other religious leaders, he mediates conflicts between black protesters and government security forces.
1990 : President FW de Klerk lifts the ban on the African National Congress (ANC) and announces his intention to release Nelson Mandela from prison.
1991: Apartheid laws and racist restrictions are repealed and power-sharing talks begin between the state and 16 anti-apartheid groups.
1994: After Mandela came to power as ANC leader in the country’s first democratic elections, Tutu coined the term “Rainbow Nation” to describe the coming together of various races in post-apartheid South Africa.
1994: Mandela asks Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was set up to listen, record and, in some cases, grant amnesty to perpetrators of human rights violations under apartheid.
1996: Tutu withdraws from the church to focus solely on the commission. He continued his activism, advocating equality and reconciliation, and was later appointed Archbishop Emeritus.
1997 : Tutu is diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was hospitalized to treat recurrent infections.
2011: The Dalai Lama opens the annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Conference, but does so via a satellite link after the South African government denied the Tibetan spiritual leader a visa to attend.
2013: Tutu makes candid comments about the ANC. He says he will no longer vote for the party because he has done a poor job of tackling inequality, violence and corruption.
2013: Dubbed “the nation’s moral compass,” Tutu declares his support for gay rights, saying he would never worship “a homophobic god.”
October 7, 2021: A frail-looking Tutu is taken to his former parish of St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, which was once a haven for anti-apartheid activists, for a special thanksgiving service marking his 90th birthday.
December 26, 2021: Tutu died in Cape Town at the age of 90.