Luthuli, Albert John

Luthuli, Albert John lətho͞oˈlē [key], 1898?–1967, African political leader in the Republic of South Africa. Descended from a line of Christian Zulu chiefs, he was educated at Adams College, a mission school near Durban, and taught there for 15 years. He was appointed chief (1935) and, remaining active in church affairs, preached non-violence in the Africans' campaign against racial discrimination. Although devoutly religious, he grew disillusioned with the church's racial position and became active politically. In 1946 he joined the African National Congress (ANC). When he refused to resign (1952) from the presidency of the ANC, the South African government deposed him as chief and applied severe restrictions on his activities. Nevertheless, he led a campaign of passive resistance against the apartheid laws. In 1956, with some 150 other critics of the government, he was arrested on charges of treason; after a prolonged mass trial he was acquitted. In 1959 the government banished him to his village and outlawed (1960) the ANC, which continued to operate underground. A government law in 1962 banned publication of his statements in the media. A firm believer in the political and spiritual force of passive resistance and leading proponent of the nonviolent civil disobedience techniques of Mahatma Gandhi, he was awarded the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize, becoming Africa's first Nobel Peace Prize winner. Despite some criticism of his passive philosophy, he was highly regarded by most black South Africans. He is the author of an autobiography, Let My People Go (1962).

See biography by M. Benson (1963); studies by E. Callan (rev. ed. 1965), S. Couper (2010), and R. T. Vinson (2018).

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