Life and Death of the First African Nobel Prizewinner
Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli
The Life and Death of Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli
Born 1898, near Bulawayo, Rhodesia, now in Zimbabwe, Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli, was educated in Christian Mission Schools and graduated from the American Board Mission’s teacher-training college at Adams, near Durban South Africa, becoming one of its first three African instructors; he later taught at Adam’s until 1935.
However, as a chief, he was not allowed to take part in politics; he defied this ban. When he was called upon by the Government to choose between his chieftainship and the African National Congress, he chose the African National Congress stating, “The road to freedom is via the cross.” He was unseated in 1952 and elected president-general of the African National Congress the same year.
In 1959, the government confined him to his rural neighborhood and banned him from gatherings this time for five years for promoting feelings of hostility between the races. His first ban for two years was in 1952. It was renewed in 1954 and in 1959; he was banned for a further period of five years that was again renewed when it expired.
He also traveled to America to issue the 1961 Appeal for Action against Apartheid with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the American Committee on Africa. King once wrote to Luthuli, “I admire your great witness and your dedication to the cause of freedom and human dignity.” On July 21, 1967, Chief Luthuli allegedly was struck by a train and was killed.
Albert John Luthuli stated in his 1960 Nobel Prize speech as the first black African awarded the prize, "Previous to being a chief I was a school teacher for about seventeen years. In these past thirty years or so, I have striven with tremendous zeal and patience to work for the progress and welfare of my people and for their harmonious relations with other sections of our multiracial society in the Union of South Africa. In this effort, I always pursued the path of moderation.
Over this great length of time I have, year after year, gladly spent hours of my time with such organizations as the church and its various agencies, such as the Christian Council of South Africa, the Joint Council of Europeans and Africans, and the now-defunct Native Representative Council."