Show Summary Details

Page of

Printed from Oxford Research Encyclopedias, African History. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a single article for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 30 September 2022

Albert Luthulifree

Albert Luthulifree

  • Robert VinsonRobert VinsonUniversity of Virginia


Albert Luthuli, president of the African National Congress (ANC), South Africa’s leading anti-apartheid organization, became the first African-born recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1961. During Luthuli’s presidency (1952–1967), the ANC became a mass organization, articulating a broad, inclusive African nationalism and leading the Congress Alliance, a multiracial, multi-ideological anti-apartheid coalition that shared Luthuli’s vision of a democratic, equitable South Africa. The Prize recognized Luthuli’s Gandhian strategy to end South African apartheid, state-sanctioned laws and policies designed particularly to ensure White supremacist racial domination over the African majority, who were approximately 75 percent of the country’s population. The Nobel also reflected Luthuli’s success in portraying apartheid as a crime against humanity that violated the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and to contextualize South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle as central to expanding global human-rights campaigns. The Nobel Peace Prize cemented Luthuli’s enduring image as an uncompromising advocate of nonviolence who—during intense debates in 1960 and 1961 within the anti-apartheid movement about the relative efficacy of violent and nonviolent tactics against an increasingly violent apartheid state—remained implacably opposed to Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which eventually became the ANC’s armed wing. But recently available archival documents, along with autobiographical accounts and oral interviews reveal that Luthuli accepted and authorized MK while insisting that the ANC maintain its official nonviolent position. In retrospect, the Nobel Prize was the apogee of Luthuli’s global renown, as increasingly restrictive state bans limited his ability to participate in political activity. Despite Luthuli’s tragic and still-controversial 1967 death, the ANC survived lethal state repression to become in 1994 the first democratically elected governing party in South African history. But Africa’s first Nobel Peace Prize winner eventually became overshadowed by younger ANC leaders Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. This article aims to recover Luthuli from relative historical obscurity and highlight his key leadership of the ANC as it transformed into a mass anti-apartheid movement and his revolutionary belief that apartheid South Africa could become one of the world’s first truly multiracial democracies.


  • Southern Africa

The Formative Years

Albert John Mvumbi Luthuli was born about 1898 in Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia. His South African–born parents were John, an evangelist, teacher, interpreter, and goods transporter, and Nozililo Mtonya, who as a young girl had lived in the royal court of the Zulu king (inkosi) Cetshwayo. Albert was the youngest of their three children. Tragically, John died, possibly during a malaria outbreak when Albert was only six months old. Nozililo, Albert, and his older brother Alfred (another brother, Mpangwa, died at birth) returned to South Africa in 1908, eventually settling in Groutville, Natal. Named after Aldin Grout, a missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABM), a Congregationalist enterprise that had begun its work in southern Africa in 1834, this small community derived from the ABM’s Umvoti mission station. Albert’s grandparents, Ntaba ka Mdunjuni and Titisi Mthethwa, were among the Africans who resisted incorporation into the expansive Zulu state founded by Shaka ka Senzengakhona. They became Grout’s first Christian converts. In 1860, the Umvoti mission community, known as the abasemakholweni (converted Christians), elected Ntaba as their chief, and thereafter Ntaba’s brother, son Martin, and grandson Albert, so that four of their first seven chiefs were Luthulis.1

The 1910 Union of South Africa, a self-governing dominion within the British empire, consolidated White rule—immediately rooted in 19th-century land conquests by Dutch-descended Whites known as Afrikaners—particularly by the British, who subdued most Africans, including the large Xhosa and Zulu states, by the 1890s. The 1867 discovery of diamonds in Kimberley, soon controlled by the British Cape Colony, and in 1886, gold in the Transvaal, an Afrikaner-controlled state, led to the institution of the migrant labor system, which exploited Africans. By 1900, South Africa had become the world’s leading producer of these minerals. Segregationist laws denied virtually all Africans, about 70 percent of the population at this time, the right to vote; condemned them, by “color-bar” laws, to the lowest-paying jobs; and provided them little judicial recourse to counter their systematic subordination. These laws included the Natives Land Act of 1913 and the Native Trust and Land Act of 1936, which limited African landownership to less than 13 percent of South African territory. By restricting their abilities to own sufficient land for housing and to support the cattle holding and agricultural cultivation necessary to maintain economic independence, the laws forced them into labor tenancy and sharecropping on White farms, and into labor migration to urban areas. There, they became subject to the Natives (Urban Areas) Act of 1923, which segregated them in squalid townships, declared them temporary workers instead of permanent urban residents, and restricted their movements with pass laws.2

In Groutville, the young Albert lived with his uncle Martin Luthuli, who was Groutville’s elected chief, secretary to the Zulu inkosi Dinuzulu and the translator and interpreter for the Zulu royal house. Martin was also a cofounder of both the Natal Native Congress in 1901 and the South African Native National Congress (SANNC, later renamed the African National Congress) in 1912, groups that agitated for greater African political rights and land ownership. Serving until 1921, Martin provided Albert with a model for the Groutville chieftainship and dual, complementary engagement with both “traditionalist” Zulu aristocratic affairs and broader pan-ethnic African nationalist politics. A central feature of his education, Albert also learned Zulu history and cultural traditions and performed the typical duties of a Zulu child: herding cattle, weeding crops, fetching water, and building nighttime fires to keep the household warm.3

He attended the ABM mission school, Groutville Primary, and then the Ohlange Institute, the school established by his admired mentor, the American-educated John Dube, the first SANNC president-general and founding editor of the isiZulu-English–language newspaper Ilanga lase Natal (“Sun of Natal”). After Ohlange, Luthuli attended Edendale, embarking on a two-year teacher-training course that resulted in a teaching certificate in 1917. After Edendale, he became the nineteen-year-old principal (and sole staff member) of a small school in the Natal midlands, before earning his higher teacher’s certificate at Adams College in 1921. Luthuli, along with Z. K. Matthews, became one of the first African teachers at Adams College, heading the Teachers College to train future African teachers. He also taught Zulu history, music, and literature, cofounding the Zulu Cultural and Language Society to steep younger generations in Zulu history and culture and to promote isiZulu as a medium for primary education. A man of many talents, Luthuli was also a lay minister who led the Adams branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and gave well-received sermons, was a passionate lover of music who helped found Adams College’s school of music in 1935 and led choirs renowned throughout Natal and was also a skilled soccer player and coach who organized soccer leagues.4

In 1927, Luthuli married Nokukhanya ka Maphita ka Bhengu Ndlokolo, who had studied, then taught, at Adams. Nokukhanya, who would be known respectfully as “Ma Bhengu,” was the granddaughter of Ndlokolo Bhengu, a chief of the Ngcolosi people. Her father, Maphita Bhengu, was an early ABM convert who applied successfully to be exempt from the restrictive segregationist measures of the Natal Native Code, a status that also included his children, including Nokukhanya. But in marrying Albert, who was not exempted, Nokukhanya made considerable sacrifices. She lost both her exempted status and her teaching career because of restrictions against married women teachers. Patriarchal laws and customs classified women as legal minors and social children, but in fact Nokukhana was the family bedrock. She learned the successful farming methods of Nozililo, her mother-in-law, and cultivated the family’s small vegetable and sugar-cane fields, selling enough produce to become the family’s primary breadwinner throughout her marriage to Albert. Nokukhanya and Albert enjoyed an equitable family life that included four daughters and three sons, born between 1929 and 1945. Albert was not a stereotypical authoritarian and distant patriarch but a loving, attentive, and devoted father. Their eldest daughter, Albertina, recalled, “Ubaba never imposed his status as family head upon us. Everybody had an equal opportunity to talk, and no one was considered too young to have his views respected.”5

The People’s Chief

In 1936, Luthuli reluctantly left Adams, after the Groutville community elected him as their chief. While willing to serve his people, Albert and Nokukhanya knew that government chiefs were in a difficult, contradictory position. They were government employees, paid to administer and enforce unjust and unpopular state policies to their people, whose interests they supposedly represented. Some unscrupulous chiefs abused their state-backed power to enrich themselves and their allies by claiming land, charging dubious fees, and accepting bribes to settle disputes. Luthuli, though the chieftainship paid far less than his former teacher’s salary, rejected such extortionist measures even as his children complained occasionally about their increasingly spartan lifestyle. Steeped in a multigenerational family tradition of chieftainship, Luthuli modeled his leadership on democratic Zulu traditional governance, with chiefs legally bound to honor traditional customs and to be responsive to their peoples’ needs and desires. He also practiced ubuntu, a broader African concept that recognized the humanity and interdependence of all people. Thus, he governed with an inclusive democratic spirit, personal warmth, integrity, empathy, and judicious wisdom. He also included women, regarded as legal and social minors, in democratic consultations and facilitated their economic advancement by disregarding government prohibitions on their beer brewing and selling and their operation of shebeens (unlicensed bars). Luthuli was, as one community member remembered, a “man of the people [who] had a very strong influence over the community. He was a people’s chief.”6

Concerned for his people, Chief Luthuli criticized the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts, which were explicitly designed to further eviscerate African landownership and increase African labor migration to urban areas, separating families, accelerating African social disintegration and dislocation, and deepening poverty in the increasingly overcrowded reserves. Luthuli later noted the disparity of Whites claiming to need 375 acres per person to live comfortably while African families had only 6 acres, leading to soil exhaustion, lack of adequate grazing ground for cattle, and little heritable land for grown African children to economically sustain themselves and their families. He protested to unmoved state officials about the government’s “land rehabilitation” schemes that forced Africans to sell “surplus” cattle at reduced rates to White farmers who had comparatively plentiful land to absorb additional cattle and accrue more wealth: “Your solution is to take our cattle away today because you took our land yesterday.” Luthuli reminded government officials that for Africans, cattle were cherished possessions and a meaningful source of wealth; forcing them to sell cattle represented a deep economic and psychic violence against his people.7

Luthuli’s chieftainship uniquely positioned him to observe the fallacy of state logic and the deepening poverty of the once-prosperous Groutville community and the tangible negative effects of African disfranchisement, onerous taxation without representation, land scarcity, and economic insecurity. Mobilizing his community, Luthuli revived the Groutville Bantu Cane Growers’ Association, a group of about two hundred small-scale cane growers (including himself) that successfully lobbied the millers to advance monies that would allow African farmers to meet upfront production costs. He also chaired the Natal and Zululand Bantu Cane Growers’ Association, bringing nearly all African sugar-cane producers into one union. During his 1948 American tour, he secured a tractor that helped boost agricultural production by local farmers, some of whom thus increased their margins enough to educate their children. The African intellectual Jordan Ngubane, who studied at Adams when Luthuli taught there and later became Luthuli’s personal secretary and political ally, credited Luthuli with promoting economic development, increasing agricultural efficiency, sending more youth to schools and universities, and inspiring an optimism that belied the increasing hardships caused by government land policies. In 1946, Luthuli served as a councilor in the Native Representative Council (NRC), an advisory body to the government. There, he continued his longstanding complaints about inadequate African land, and he protested the state’s violent suppression of the 1946 African mineworkers’ strike. But government officials remained unresponsive, and an exasperated Luthuli dismissed the NRC as a “toy telephone.”8

Grasping the Global Color Line

In 1938 Luthuli traveled to Madras, India, as part of an interracial Christian delegation to an international missionary conference. Despite the fact that South African segregation traveled outside the country’s borders—the White delegates traveled first class and the four African delegates second class—Luthuli toured Indian and Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka), met Indian, Japanese, Chinese, and African Christian leaders, and returned “with wider sympathies and horizons.”9 Accepting the joint invitation and sponsorship of the American Board and the North American Missionary Conference, in June 1948, Luthuli traveled to the United States for a seven-month lecture tour of churches, civic groups, youth groups, and universities that deeply informed his later anti-apartheid activism.10 He left South Africa right after the May 1948 election victory of the pro-apartheid Nationalist Party and arrived in America during the 1948 presidential campaign, featuring the southern segregationist “Dixiecrat” revolt against the incumbent president Harry Truman’s mild civil-rights agenda. Displaying the strong racial affinities and solidarities developed between some Black South Africans and African Americans since 1890, Luthuli extended his American tour to visit historically Black universities: Howard, Atlanta, Tuskegee, and Virginia State. He remarked, “I have such a great desire to visit my people in the South that I would have been awfully disappointed to return to Africa without doing so.” Luthuli lectured on African history and culture and the virtues of Gandhian nonviolence, met faculty and students from Africa and other parts of the Black world, and was hosted by Black lawyers, academics, and ministers.11 Everywhere, his visits sparked an “awakening on campus relative to Africa and an eagerness on the part of students to know more about this great continent.”12 Luthuli marveled at the impressive institutional and personal achievements of African Americans despite the formidable obstacles of Jim Crow racial subordination in the United States, which he also experienced personally. Howard University, the Mecca of Black education and the educational pillar of an upwardly mobile Black elite, was in Washington DC, the nation’s capital and a segregated Jim Crow city; Luthuli traveled on Jim Crow trains and encountered segregated public facilities throughout the South.13 This southern tour profoundly affected Luthuli, who now saw “South African issues more sharply, and in a different and larger perspective.”14 Luthuli would link South Africa’s freedom struggle to a global color line that included decolonization and labor movements in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean and the US civil-rights movement.15

From Government Chief to ANC President

Luthuli returned to South Africa in February 1949, as the Nationalists began to pass apartheid laws to ensure ethnic Afrikaner advancement and White racial supremacy. The Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act (1949) and the Immorality Act (1950) outlawed marriage and sexual relations between Whites and other racial groups. The Suppression of Communism Act (1950) stifled political dissent by defining Communism to include all extra-parliamentary resistance to the apartheid state. The Population Registration Act (1950) divided South Africa’s inhabitants into four racial groups—Africans, Coloureds, Asiatics, and Whites—as the basis to create racially differentiated citizens and subjects, residential areas, employment, education, and political, economic, and social rights. The Group Areas Act (1950) extended government powers to create racially separate residential zones, including the forcible removal of people to create racially homogeneous areas.

In Luthuli’s view, the Nazi-inspired apartheid regime, and its White supporters had pirated the land, wealth, and government and these apartheid laws shackled the African majority in virtual enslavement. Africans were the “livestock which went with the estate, objects rather than subjects,” political footballs tossed about by the Nationalists and their White parliamentary rivals.16 Apartheid South Africa also had powerful international allies. During the Cold War, the United States deepened its diplomatic, economic, political, and military ties with South Africa, a critical source of uranium and other strategic minerals for the nuclear arsenal at the heart of its arms race with the Soviet Union. The United States, along with Great Britain and France, used its veto power on the United Nations Security Council to block anti-apartheid resolutions from the UN General Assembly.

At the ANC’s December 1948 conference, ANC Youth Leaguers such as A. P. Mda, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, and Oliver Tambo argued that the new apartheid regime necessitated that the ANC move beyond strictly constitutional methods. The Youth Leaguers proposed a Program of Action that would consist of civil-disobedience tactics, including strikes and boycotts. Luthuli, who had joined the ANC in 1944, would lead the Program of Action in Natal. After initial reservations about African-Indian collaboration after the January 1949 Cato Manor riots—when Africans, frustrated by the perceived arrogance and discrimination of Indians toward them, attacked Indian merchants—Luthuli participated in joint-action campaigns with the Indian congresses. This included a one-day strike on May 1, 1950, in which the South African police killed dozens of unarmed, nonviolent protesters, and a multiracial one-day stay at home on June 26, 1950, to protest the Group Areas Act and the Suppression of Communism Act.

On May 3, 1951, Luthuli became the Natal ANC president, defeating the longtime president A. W. G. Champion, but he became a national political figure during the iconic 1952 Defiance Campaign, a multiracial mobilization led by the ANC. The campaign modeled itself on Gandhi’s nonviolent civil-disobedience strategy that helped win India’s independence from Great Britain.17 Luthuli expanded Gandhi’s ideals of satyagraha, first developed exclusively for Indians in South Africa, to include all races, convincing Gandhi’s own son Manilal that Africans would lead a much broader movement of “active nonviolence” that could change individual lives, mobilize the masses, and end apartheid. Luthuli rallied thousands of people as Africans and Indians defied segregation practices in public facilities and Africans defied curfew laws in Durban.18 Over nine thousand people of all races went to jail for defying apartheid laws, creating an impromptu interracial space that resounded with their freedom songs.

By August 1952, government officials, including the Secretary of Native Affairs, Dr. W. W. M Eiselen, felt strongly that Luthuli’s Defiance Campaign activity conflicted with his chiefly duties to administer and enforce government laws. Eiselen ordered Luthuli to resign from either the ANC or the chieftaincy and when, after two months of additional pressure, Luthuli refused to choose, the government stripped him of his chieftainship. Luthuli’s politics reflected his Christian beliefs:

I am in Congress precisely because I am a Christian. My Christian belief about human society must find expression here and now. . . . My own urge, because I am a Christian, is to get into the thick of the struggle with other Christians, taking my Christianity with me and praying that it may be used to influence for good the character of the resistance.19

Luthuli’s personal sacrifice and principled integrity greatly impressed his ANC colleagues, who promptly elected him ANC president in December 1952. Though the Defiance Campaign effectively ended by January 1953 without the elimination of apartheid laws, it prompted a dramatic increase in ANC membership from 25,000 in 1951 to 100,000 at the end of the campaign. The Defiance Campaign had also caught the attention of nascent international anti-apartheid, anticolonial, and human-rights activists, particularly in Africa, Europe, and the United States. In turn, Luthuli contextualized the Defiance Campaign as a manifestation of emerging international human-rights norms, and he celebrated the significant domestic and international support for the Defiance Campaign’s fight for the “fundamental human rights of freedom of speech, association and movement” that would forge a democratic and equitable post-apartheid South Africa.20

The Defiance Campaign also helped launch the Congress Alliance, an ANC-led broad anti-apartheid front of independent multiracial, multi-ideological organizations that sought to end apartheid. Luthuli cast apartheid as a crime against humanity, and the Congress Alliance’s Freedom Charter, a landmark 1955 document that demanded freedom, justice, and material equity for all South Africans, was declared “a South African Declaration of Human Rights” and a “Magna Carta—a Bill of Human Rights” that was both a guiding star for anti-apartheid activism and the basis for a post-apartheid South African constitution.21 For Luthuli, the Freedom Charter joined the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of Independence as a timeless document that could be adopted for all freedom-loving peoples.22 Indeed, Luthuli and other Black South Africans framed their freedom struggles within international human-rights ideals, an under-recognized fact among human-rights scholars.23 The UN Declaration of Human Rights, enacted in 1948, was largely a reaction to the rise of fascism that led to World War II and Nazi atrocities during that war. The Freedom Charter’s preamble and thirty articles included declarations that every human should have “inherent dignity, equal and inalienable rights of all humans” as the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” The Charter also stipulated freedom of speech, religion, assembly, and movement; equal education and pay; equal protection and rights under the law; and democratic governance; and it prohibited slavery, involuntary servitude, and arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.24

No wonder, then, that South Africa was one of eight countries to abstain when UN member countries voted overwhelmingly to adopt the UN Charter and that they interpreted the Freedom Charter as a subversive document.25 On December 5, 1956, police arrested and charged Luthuli and 155 anti-apartheid leaders with high treason. Luthuli spent nearly a year in prison, with Nokukhanya only allowed to visit him twice. High treason was a crime punishable by death, but Luthuli expressed more concern for his family’s welfare than for his own life. During the five-year Treason Trial (1956–1961), as it came to be known, the government’s imprisonment of anti-apartheid activists from all over South Africa, many of whom had not previously met, strengthened the movement. While in prison, Luthuli replicated the measured and inspirational statesmanship displayed during the Defiance Campaign, before Nelson Mandela’s more famous prison leadership on Robben Island after 1964, Luthuli—with other Congress Alliance leaders Z. K. Matthews, Moses Kotane, and G. M. Naicker—maintained discipline among imprisoned Congress Alliance members and initiated political discussions, concerts, religious services, and cultural theater to foster political fellowship. When fellow Natal ANC leader M. B. Yengwa sang praises (izibongo) honoring Shaka, Luthuli rejoiced in the performance with Zulu and non-Zulu prisoners, declaring, “Ngu Shaka lowo!” (“That is Shaka!”) as the pan-ethnic and multiracial prisoners felt “bound together by love of our history.”26

Imprisonment also facilitated Luthuli’s deeper trust with communist members, particularly Kotane, whom Luthuli always consulted before making major decisions as ANC president. Luthuli was definitely “not a Communist,” but

I have one enemy, the Nationalist government, and I will not fight on two fronts. I shall work with all who are prepared to stand with me in the struggle for the liberation of our country. We leave our differing political theories to one side until the day of liberation.27

An intellectually curious and pragmatic man, Luthuli began to read the literature of Karl Marx and the South African Communist Party (SACP) to better understand communism and his communist allies, and he relied on communists for logistical support to break his bans and attend secret ANC and Congress Alliance meetings.28 In turn, African communists like Kotane, J. B. Marks, David Bopape, and Sisulu, a Communist Party member since at least 1955, expressed no concern that Luthuli was not a Communist and they remained stalwart supporters of Luthuli’s presidency. In the end, they were all African nationalists first. During the Treason Trial, the state’s weak case unraveled slowly, with Luthuli, Tambo, and fifty-nine others acquitted in December 1957 after the pretrial examination. Finally, in 1961, the court acquitted the remaining Treason Trial defendants, declaring that the state had not proven its allegation.29

Luthuli and Verwoerd: Irreconcilable Visions for South Africa’s Future

Luthuli contextualized the South African liberation struggle within larger African and Asian decolonization movements and continental Pan-Africanism, sparked by independence in Sudan (1956) and Ghana (1957). Indeed, Pan-Africanism swept across the African continent, with the Ghanaian prime minister Kwame Nkrumah vowing that Ghana’s independence was worth little without complete continental emancipation from European colonialism. Nkrumah convened a series of Pan-African conferences—the first in Africa itself—including the 1958 All-African Peoples Conference (AAPC) that targeted 1963 as year of continental African liberation, inspiring the popular South African slogan, “Free by ’63!”30 By the mid-1960s, most of Africa, excepting most of southern Africa, was independent. To inspire Black South Africans, Luthuli pointed to these “events taking place in Africa to show our complacent people here that the rest of Africa is astir.” Luthuli’s writings, including his personal communications with the future Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere, also contextualized South Africa within other multiracial societies in East and Central Africa.

Luthuli also sought to cultivate transnational ties with the nascent global anti-apartheid movement. In 1958, he supported a global boycott of all South African goods, in tandem with early anti-apartheid movements in several countries—including Ireland, Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, India, the United States, and Ghana.31 Luthuli’s appeal, and the presence of exiled South Africans in such countries, increased coordination between global anti-apartheid activists and the South African domestic struggle. Building on these early connections, after 1960, the exiled ANC would broaden the terrain for sanctions beyond economics to other sectors like sports, culture, and higher education.32 Luthuli argued persuasively against claims that economic sanctions would do nothing except further impoverish Black South Africans:

The economic boycott of South Africa will entail undoubted hardship for Africans. We do not doubt that. But if it is a method which shortens the day of blood, the suffering to us will be a price we are willing to pay. In any case, we suffer already, our children are often undernourished, and on a small scale (so far) we die at the whim of a policeman.

He added later:

[A]lready in any case, they [the poor] are in difficulties; at some time this vicious circle must be cut; at some time some generation must suffer to do that . . . if you suggested that the African people should not suffer you in fact are saying that they should remain slaves. . . . So with this question of ‘It will hit the Africans hardest’, let us be hit, let some of us die, even if necessary die through bullets, if necessary die through starvation, if this will end this vicious circle.33

In 1958, the new prime minister Hendrik Verwoerd unveiled a system of “grand apartheid” as his audacious answer to the decolonization beginning to sweep across Africa north of the Zambezi River. Grand apartheid was distinct from earlier petty apartheid laws that defined and separated racial groups. The foundational legislation, the 1958 Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act, created ten ethnic-based “homelands” or Bantustans that would eventually become “independent.” The total land mass of all ten Bantustans comprised roughly 13 percent of the land that the state designated to Africans—now 75 percent of the population—in the 1913 and 1936 Land Acts. With no parliamentary oversight, the minister of Bantu Administration and Development ruled unilaterally over the Bantustans as his personal fiefdom. The minister even had authority over those Africans that worked and lived outside the Bantustans, in “White South Africa.” He also had the power to ban the ANC and deny entrance to the homelands. By locating African citizenship within ethnic-based homelands, grand-apartheid policies denied the ANC’s inclusive nationalism, refused African claims to South African political citizenship, and cast them as foreign migrant workers under perpetual threat of being “endorsed” to underdeveloped and often unfamiliar rural areas. Verwoerd sold grand apartheid as an instrument of peace that could end supposedly inevitable interracial conflict.

Must Bantu and European in future develop as intermixed communities, or as communities separated from one another, in so far as this is practically possible? If the reply is ‘intermingled communities,’ then the following must be understood. There will be competition and conflict everywhere.34

Despite describing apartheid to foreign audiences as a “policy of good neighborliness,” Verwoerd, in his typically blunt and pugnacious style, explicitly rejected Luthuli’s call for multiracial partnership. “This is our country. If we had partnership with the black man, pretty soon he would feel that it is his country.”35

Luthuli remained deeply unimpressed with Verwoerd’s dystopian vision that regarded multiracial contact as an inherently dangerous encounter with evil that could only be remedied by the utopian purity of his apartheid policies. He proclaimed that apartheid belonged to “the dark ages” and lamented that Verwoerd and the Nationalist Party were blind to

the wealth that lies in our very diversity, nor the underlying humanity and South Africanism that binds us all. . . . [T]heir profession . . . is the spreading of the spirit of Afrikaner exclusiveness . . . and when they try to don the mantle of statesmen, they succeed only in making themselves ridiculous, like pigmies strutting in giants’ robes.36

When the government neglected to renew his banning orders, Luthuli seized the rare opportunity to embark on nationwide tours in 1958 and 1959 to promote his optimistic vision of a nonracial, democratic, peaceful, and equitable South Africa. He roused multiracial crowds in South African cities, becoming the only person in South Africa capable of attracting broad support from Africans, Indians, and Coloureds. For perhaps the first time in South African history, a significant number of Whites came to hear an African politician. Beyond members of the Congress of Democrats (COD) that were already in the Congress Alliance, Luthuli’s “gospel of democracy and freedom” entranced members of the Liberal Party and the Black Sash, anti-apartheid White women who wore a black sash on their dresses to symbolize their mourning of the Constitution, which the apartheid government increasingly disregarded. In one particularly memorable speech entitled “Freedom Is the Apex,” Luthuli invited listeners to climb with him to the top of a mountain. At the apex were the ideals of the Freedom Charter and the vision of a democratic, inclusive, and equitable South Africa that would be a global model for racial harmony and coexistence. Audiences responded to such speeches with roars of “Mayibuye Afrika!” (“Come back Africa!”) and “Somlandela Luthuli!” (“We will follow Luthuli wherever he goes!”).

But like Verwoerd, most Whites rejected Luthuli’s reconciliatory message. F. W. De Klerk, destined to be South Africa’s last apartheid leader, recalled that for him and his fellow White college students, Luthuli’s “message that all South Africans should have the right to one-man one-vote in an undivided South Africa was at the time utterly alien to us.”37 In Johannesburg, Luthuli confronted “Nazi-like [White] thugs” shouting, “We will not allow a kaffir to address this meeting!” They subsequently stormed the platform, tackled the sixty-one-year old Luthuli, and left him with a bloodied face, a swollen jaw, and an “egg-sized bump on his forehead.” Unbowed, Luthuli promptly returned to the podium, called for calm and suggested gently that his attackers had not “matured spiritually yet.” Using the incident to emphasize the urgent need for South African racial reconciliation and to emphasize African demands for equality, he then delivered a stirring hour-long speech to an amazed audience that responded with a standing ovation. Such rapturous acclaim prompted parliamentarians to demand that the government “do something about this Luthuli . . . because his speeches were setting the minds of the people on fire.”38

Effective May 30, 1959, just before Luthuli’s address to thirty thousand people at an ANC anti-pass rally, the government issued a five-year ban, claiming ironically that Luthuli’s racial reconciliation tour was “promoting hostility between whites and non-whites.” The ban placed Luthuli under virtual house arrest in Groutville and forbade meetings, claiming the “objects of Communism would be furthered if ex-Chief Luthuli addressed any meetings in the Union.” Luthuli vowed to continue the fight for freedom, quoting Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address—“government of the people, by the people and for the people shall not perish from the earth” and predicted that “in the end White South Africa will realize we must come together and discuss our problems.”39

In the meantime, Luthuli had serious internal challenges from the “Africanist” ANC members that had long felt that White and Indian communists, multiracial alliances, and the Freedom Charter’s declaration—“the land belongs to all!”—diluted the strident African nationalism reflected in the 1949 Program of Action. In November 1958, at the ANC Transvaal Provincial Conference, the Africanists, led by Josias Madzunya and Potlako Leballo, loudly rejected Luthuli’s view that the broad multiracial Congress Alliance was both the most effective means to end apartheid and a model for a democratic, equitable, and racially inclusive post-apartheid state. The Africanists failed in their attempts to win a decisive number of seats during elections to the ANC’s governing body, the National Executive Council (NEC), which promptly expelled Madzunya and Leballo from the ANC for behavior deemed insurrectionary. On November 8, 1958, the Africanists seceded from the ANC; on April 6, 1959, they established the rival Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), under the presidency of the widely respected intellectual Robert Sobukwe. Luthuli lamented the split, insisting that his inclusive African nationalism asserted both the primacy of Africans in the liberation struggle and provided space for anti-apartheid activists of all races to fight against the common apartheid enemy. But to many observers, the PAC, not the ANC, seemed to be more in tune with the Pan-African currents sweeping across the country, and many continental Africans expressed skepticism about the multiracial nature of the Congress Alliance, suspicions that Luthuli could never fully put to bed during his presidency. However, Luthuli had greater success in deepening the relationship between the ANC and Congress Alliance partner, the South African Congress of Trade Unions (SACTU), founded in March 1955. Luthuli’s enthusiastic support for SACTU contributed to Natal becoming its most organized province in South Africa. Luthuli was the featured speaker at the 1959 SACTU annual conference, emphasizing the inseparability of political and economic struggle with his memorable metaphor that for anti-apartheid warriors, “the ANC is the shield and SACTU is the spear.”

The Nobel Peace Prize and International Nonviolence

In 1961, Luthuli became the first African-born recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.40 Albert was quick to tell the many journalists who came to Groutville to interview him that the Nobel would not have been possible without Nokukhanya, “with whom I share common ideals and values.”41 Indeed, in addition to being the family’s breadwinner (the ANC presidency was an unpaid position), Nokukhanya was Albert’s true political partner, which she illustrated in a later interview: “He would sometimes read his speeches to me while I was working in the garden or in the house. I would argue certain points with him and he would alter the speech accordingly.”42 Hailed as the “Mother of the Nation,” Ma Bhengu was also a leader in the ANC Women’s League and a delegate to ANC national conferences, particularly active in the protests against the extension of pass laws to women in the mid-to-late 1950s. Over the years, Albert had suffered from government bans and imprisonment, and also a debilitating stroke, that necessitated Nokukhanya to continue his political work, appearing at public gatherings in his stead and acting as a courier to keep communication lines open between her husband and other banned anti-apartheid members.43

Despite suggestions that the ANC’s commitment to human-rights ideals “receded from the mid-1950s,” Luthuli continued to align his domestic anti-apartheid politics with UN-led human-rights efforts, calling on all South Africans to observe International Human Rights Day on December 10, 1959.44 Luthuli was also the first Nobel winner after the committee had explicitly added human rights as one criterion for winning the prize. The Nobel Committee’s award exemplified international recognition and support for the anti-apartheid struggle as a fundamental human-rights issue. The apartheid regime bristled, claiming that Luthuli’s Nobel was not “based on merit, but instead to further propaganda objectives.” The Luthuli’s, connecting the South African struggle to African continental decolonization, sought to attend Tanganyika’s independence ceremonies en route to Oslo, but the government spitefully denied them.45 The Nobel Committee chairman Gunnar Jahn presented Luthuli with his Peace Prize on December 10, International Human Rights Day, praising Luthuli’s ANC for fighting “for the ideals expressed in the declaration of human rights embodied in the Charter of the United Nations.”46 In his acceptance speech, Luthuli lamented that, in the golden age of Africa’s independence, White South Africa was in the dark ages, having missed “the wind of progressive change” of “entrenched fundamental human rights.”47 For Luthuli, apartheid was the antithesis of “humanity’s highest aspirations of which the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights is a culmination. This is what we stand for. This is what we fight for.”48 The Nobel propelled Luthuli to global celebrity and raised the profile of the ANC, but it proved to be the apex of Luthuli’s political life.

The year 1960 was the “Year of Africa,” with seventeen newly independent countries announcing themselves on the global stage. Many South Africans hoped that they too would be “Free by ’63.” But the apartheid regime bucked global decolonization trends to instead intensify its reign of terror. On March 21, 1960, during PAC-led anti-pass demonstrations, police in the town of Sharpeville killed sixty-nine African pass protesters and injured upward of one hundred eighty during peaceful demonstrations against pass laws, prompting global headlines and world outrage against apartheid viciousness. The regime doubled down, declaring a state of emergency, detaining over twenty-five thousand people, and outlawing the ANC, the PAC, and several other liberation groups and individuals. In response, newly independent African and Asian countries passed numerous anti-apartheid resolutions in the UN General Assembly, and anti-apartheid protesters around the world called for diplomatic isolation, economic sanctions, and trade boycotts; there was a massive withdrawal of capital, and South Africa was forced out of the British Commonwealth. But Verwoerd survived both the assassin’s bullet of a White farmer named David Pratt and international condemnation to call for a referendum whereby the all-White electorate declared South Africa to be a republic. For many Afrikaners who had long resented any form of British oversight, Verwoerd, the grand architect of apartheid, was their modern-day Moses who would safeguard their ethnic identity and security within a rapidly decolonizing African continent.

After Sharpeville and the government’s banning of the ANC, Luthuli and Nelson Mandela debated the appropriate use of nonviolence and violence in the anti-apartheid struggle. For Mandela and other ANC leaders, nonviolence was more a conditional tactic than an inviolable principle. Luthuli, who had been jailed and beaten during the state of emergency, was South Africa’s foremost exponent of Gandhian nonviolence, but he still understood that the increasing violence of the apartheid state prompted calls for some form of counterviolence. In mid-1961, during separate and joint meetings of the ANC and its Congress Alliance partners, Luthuli and Mandela agreed to a compromise position whereby the ANC retained its nonviolent policies but authorized and accepted the eventual formation of a separate though affiliated sabotage unit led by Mandela that eventually became known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK). This unit had a qualified mandate not to engage in open warfare or target human lives but rather to confine itself to tightly controlled sabotage. Such actions would be against critical South African infrastructure, including government buildings that administered and enforced apartheid laws (like pass offices and police stations) and state infrastructure (like government installations, electricity transmission towers, communication, and transport links). Ideally, these attacks would disrupt the South African state machine, damage the country’s economy, raise national and international consciousness of apartheid’s evils, and bring the government to the negotiating table. Alas, it was not to be. The National Party responded to MK, launched on December 16, 1961, with further state repression. In July 1962, the South African parliament passed the General Laws Amendment Act, entrenching indefinite confinement without charge, and by 1964 the state had captured most MK leaders, sentencing several, including Mandela, to life imprisonment in June 1964.49

The state’s continued banning of the ANC, its virtual decimation of MK, and the widespread killing, jailing, and exiling of numerous anti-apartheid activists was a demoralizing political setback. The regime’s ban of Luthuli restricted him to his Groutville home, unable even to attend church with his family, and banned his image and words in South Africa. In this bleak milieu, Luthuli tried to recover political momentum. Communicating surreptitiously with exiled ANC leaders like Oliver Tambo and Robert Resha, Luthuli continued his calls for international nonviolence via weapons embargoes and trade boycotts particularly by Britain, South Africa’s largest trading partner. Ghana, India, and Malaysia were among the first countries to enact sanctions against South Africa. He also wrote missives to international anti-apartheid organizations like the American Council on Africa (ACOA) and the UN Special Committee on Apartheid to bolster their ongoing protests against South Africa.50 Martin Luther King, Jr., amplified Luthuli’s international nonviolence and human-rights platform. Since 1957, King had supported South Africans who sought “to achieve basic human rights for all as proclaimed in their Freedom Charter.”51 King also raised money for the legal defense of Luthuli and his fellow accused during the Treason Trial, and in July 1962, King and Luthuli issued the “Appeal for Action Against Apartheid,” a call to all governments, organizations, and individuals to support economic sanctions, trade boycotts, and diplomatic isolation of South Africa until it abided by the UN Declaration of Human Rights. En route to Oslo in 1964 for his own Nobel Peace Prize, King addressed a London audience with many South Africans present, lamenting the global color line: “Clearly there is much in Mississippi and Alabama to remind South Africans of their own country” and noted that the apartheid regime had responded to over fifty years of nonviolent struggle in South Africa with “the shootings of Sharpeville . . . years of punishment for Mandela” along with “hundreds wasting away in Robben Island.”52 At his Nobel acceptance speech, King praised Luthuli, “pilot in the struggle for human rights . . . [who] met with the most brutal expression of man’s inhumanity to man” and continued his anti-apartheid activism until his 1968 death.53

State Persecution and Luthuli’s Mysterious Death

In May 1964, the Minister of Justice John Vorster renewed Luthuli’s bans for an additional five years, further isolating him from the ANC, which had been driven underground and was struggling to maintain a viable domestic presence. Luthuli still managed to transmit his message to the world through visitors such as the US senator Robert F. Kennedy, who, during his 1966 South African tour, made the pilgrimage to Groutville and later praised Luthuli as “one of the most impressive men that I have ever met.”54 But police harassment intensified, with frequent house raids that made Luthuli “very touchy” and “depressed.” Nokukhanya recalled,

They used to come and fetch him from home. Sometimes without notice, they would take him away, talking to him about stopping what he was doing. They wanted him to resign from the ANC. That was the main thing. They would talk and talk to him and bring him back in the evening.55

Luthuli, the Nobel Peace Prize winner hailed as the potential president of a democratic, nonracial South Africa, became a lonely, depressed, and increasingly ill man, victimized by a vicious regime that inflicted upon him a slow death by a thousand cuts. When the government stripped his chieftainship in 1952, Luthuli anticipated correctly that his political path might lead to “ridicule, imprisonment . . . banishment and even death,” but he prayed to God that he would continue to have the courage to fight for “a true democracy and a true union . . . of all the communities in the land.”56 While in Oslo, Luthuli had refused to go into exile, vowing to “win or die” in South Africa.57

On July 21, 1967, the chief died, having fought the good fight. A South African Railways freight train struck him while he walked across a bridge near his Groutville home, and he died at the hospital that afternoon before he could convey his version of this tragic event. Whether Luthuli’s death was a deliberate assassination or an unfortunate accident, given that the apartheid regime routinely murdered, tortured, and jailed its political opponents, it is not surprising that family members, close friends, colleagues, and subsequent generations have remained convinced of foul play. Certainly, whether Luthuli’s tragic encounter with the train was by accident or by design, he died imprisoned by apartheid. The ANC’s obituary praised Luthuli as “one of Africa’s greatest political figures of our times; the undisputed leader and respected spokesman for South Africa’s 14 million oppressed, exploited and humiliated inhabitants.” Luthuli’s admirers regarded him as a global icon of peace and reconciliation, like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. Ironically, when Nelson Mandela walked out of prison in 1990 onto the world stage, he embodied Luthuli’s earlier status as a unique unifying figure with a stirring statesman’s vision of racial reconciliation in a democratic South Africa. In this way, he was “Luthuli after Luthuli.” If the winds of African decolonization had swept across apartheid South Africa, it is likely that Luthuli, not Mandela, would have become South Africa’s first democratically elected president. But Nokukhanya did live to see a post-apartheid South Africa before her death in 1994. The story of Albert and Nokukhanya Luthuli is at once one of tragedy and despair, prophetic triumph, and a relevant model of leadership for today’s South Africa. Their integrity, gospel of service to the dispossessed, collaborative partnership and willingness to suffer and even die to realize a democratic and equitable South Africa are values deeply needed in today’s South Africa—and indeed the world.

Discussion of the Literature

Albert Luthuli’s 1961 autobiography, Let My People Go, remains an essential source of biographical information about Luthuli, his insights on the development and ideological basis of apartheid and his Christian-informed belief in the ultimate success of the anti-apartheid movement. Two early biographies, published in the immediate aftermath of Luthuli’s Nobel Peace Prize and at the height of his global renown, include Edward Callan, Albert John Luthuli and the South African Race Conflict (1962) and, from the close vantage point of a long-time anti-apartheid activist, Mary Benson’s Chief Albert Luthuli of South Africa (1963). Gerald Pillay’s Voices of Liberation (1993) provides a brief but useful biography of Luthuli before reprinting many of Luthuli’s most notable speeches. Scott Couper’s Bound by Faith (2010) asserts that Luthuli’s Christian faith “bound” him to repudiate counterviolence “before, during and after the decision to form MK,” despite the state’s brutality. Jabulani Mzaliya’s Celebrating Chief Albert Luthuli’s Life Through His Heritage Trail (2014) offers a holistic view of Luthuli’s political, familial, sporting, and musical lives. Jill Kelly’s recent and forthcoming writings on Nokukhanya build on the earlier biography, Nokukhanya: Mother of Light, by Peter Rule, Marilyn Aitken, and Jenny Van Dyck. Jon Soske’s African Nationalism and the Indian Diaspora in Twentieth-Century South Africa (2017) argues that Luthuli’s inclusive African nationalism was influenced by Indian independence and political and personal alliances with South African Indians. Utilizing the newly available Luthuli papers housed at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, as well as several other newly available archival sources, Robert Trent Vinson’s Albert Luthuli regards Luthuli as a Zulu man who contextualized South African politics within larger African continental and Black transnational politics. Utilizing these archival sources and a range of oral histories, this book also argues that Luthuli insisted that the ANC continue its official nonviolent policies but accepted and authorized a separate but affiliated sabotage unit that became MK.

Within the past twenty years, there have been vibrant, often contentious historiographical debates on various aspects of the “turn to armed struggle” in 1950s and 1960s South Africa. These debates include, but are not limited to, the respective roles of key figures like Albert Luthuli and Nelson Mandela in decisions about the efficacy of adding various forms of armed insurrection to the ANC’s longstanding policies of nonviolent protest, the relative influence of the Soviet Union and the South African Communist Party (SACP) in initiating armed struggle, recent revelations regarding Nelson Mandela’s SACP membership, and critiques of the governing ANC’s “patriotic” hagiographical claims that an ANC/MK–led “armed struggle” was a heroic and ultimately successful campaign that liberated Black South Africans from apartheid.

For path-breaking discussions on popular conceptions of Luthuli’s relationship to MK, see Jabulani Sithole and Sibongiseni Mkhize, “Truth or Lies? Selective Memories, Imagings and Representations of Chief Albert Luthuli in recent political discourses” (History and Theory 39 [2000]). Ray Suttner contended that Luthuli supported the formation of MK as “just means” against a violent apartheid state that had closed off longstanding nonviolent options; Scott Couper countered that Luthuli was opposed to the formation of MK, and Stephen Ellis argued that the South African Communist Party, with the support of the Soviet Union, was the driving force in the inauguration of the armed struggle, including the formation of MK.58 Thula Simpson’s Umkhonto we Sizwe: The ANC’s Armed Struggle (Cape Town, 2016) and The ANC and the Liberation Struggle in South Africa: Essential Writings (New York: Routledge, 2017) offers several key articles that position Luthuli within larger debates on armed struggle. Simpson’s “Nelson Mandela and the Genesis of the ANC’s Armed Struggle: Notes on Method” (Journal of Southern African Studies, Dec. 2017) points to methodological and conceptual flaws in the arguments of Couper and Ellis. For this pivotal early 1960s moment in South African history, Paul Landau has written a landmark book, Spear: Mandela and the Revolutionaries (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2022) and two important articles: “The ANC, MK, and ‘The Turn to Violence’ (1960–62)” and “Controlled by Communists? (Re) Assessing the ANC in its Exilic Decades.”59


The author expresses gratitude to Ohio University Press for permission to reprint portions of my previous biography, Albert Luthuli (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2018).

Primary Sources

Leading US-based primary sources include the Albert Luthuli papers at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, a less extensive collection of Luthuli papers as part of the Cooperative Africana Microfilm Project (CAMP) at Northwestern University. Other important US-based repositories with significant content on Luthuli include, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), Harvard University, the Amistad Research Center, American Committee on Africa Collection, at Tulane University, the E.S. Reddy Papers at Yale University, and the John and Eleanor Reuling Papers, George Houser Papers and the Mary-Louise Hooper Papers, all at Michigan State University. South African-based archival sources include the Luthuli Museum in Groutville, South African National Archives Repository, the African National Congress Headquarters, Archival Division, the Killie Campbell Africana Library, University of Kwa-Zulu-Natal and the William Cullen Library, Historical Papers Research Archive, University of the Witwatersrand, Robben Island Mayibuye Archives, University of the Western Cape.

Further Reading

  • Alegi, Peter. “Sport, Race, and Liberation: A Preliminary Study of Albert Luthuli’s Sporting Life.” In Sport and Liberation in South Africa, Edited by Cornelius Thomas, 66–82. Alice, TX: University of Fort Hare, 2006.
  • Couper, Scott. Albert Luthuli: Bound by Faith. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: UKZN Press, 2010.
  • Gunner, Elizabeth. “The Politics of Language and Chief Albert Luthuli’s Funeral, 30 July 1967.” In One Hundred Years of the ANC: Debating Liberation Histories Today, Edited by Arianna Lissoni, Jon Soske, Natasha Erlank, Noor Nieftagodien, and Omar Badsha. Johannesburg: University of Witwatersrand Press, 2012.
  • Kelly, Jill. “Gender, Shame, and the ‘Efficacy of Congress Methods of Struggle’ in 1959 Natal Women’s Rural Revolts.” South African Historical Journal 71, no. 2 (2019): 1–21.
  • Luthuli, Albert. Let My People Go. New York: McGraw Hill, 1962.
  • Naidoo, Logan. In the Shadow of Chief Albert Luthuli: Reflections on Goolam Suleiman. KwaDukuza, South Africa: Luthuli Museum, 2010.
  • Pillay, Gerald. Voices of Liberation: Albert Luthuli. Cape Town: Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) Press, 2012.
  • Reddy, E. S. Luthuli: Speeches of Chief Albert John Luthuli. Durban, South Africa: Madiba Publishers, 1991.
  • Rule, Peter, with Marilyn Aitken and Jenny Van Dyk. Nokukhanya: Mother of Light Johannsburg, South Africa: Grail Press, 1993.
  • Simpson, Thula. “Nelson Mandela and the Genesis of the ANC’s Armed Struggle: Notes on Method.” Journal of Southern African Studies 44, no. 1 (2018): 133–148.
  • Sithole Jabulani. “Chief Albert Luthuli and Bantustan Politics.” In Zulu Identities. Edited by Benedict Carton, John Laband, and Jabulani Sithole. Pietermaritzburg, South Africa: UKZN Press, 2009.
  • Sithole, Jabulani, and Sibongiseni Mkhize, “Truth or Lies?: Selective Memories, Imaginings and Representations of Chief Albert Luthuli in Recent Political Discourses.” History and Theory 39, no. 4 (2000): 69–85.
  • Soske, Jon. Internal Frontiers: African Nationalism and the Indian Diaspora in Twentieth-Century South Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2017.
  • Suttner, Raymond. “The Road to Freedom is via the Cross’: ‘Just Means’ in Chief Albert Luthuli’s Life.” South African Historical Journal 62, no. 4 (2010): 696–715.
  • Vinson, Robert Trent. Albert Luthuli. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2018.
  • Vinson, Robert Trent, and Benedict Carton. “Albert Luthuli’s Private Struggle: How an Icon of Peace Came to Accept Sabotage in South Africa.” Journal of African History 58, no. 1 (2018): 1–28.


  • 1. Albert Luthuli, Let My People Go (New York: McGraw Hill, 1962), 19–22.

  • 2. Harvey Feinberg, Our Land, Our Life, Our Future: Black South African Challenges to Territorial Segregation, 1913–1948 (Pretoria, South Africa: UNISA Press, 2015).

  • 3. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 17, 26.

  • 4. Robert Trent Vinson, Albert Luthuli (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2018), 20–21; and Peter Alegi, “Sport, Race, and Liberation: A Preliminary Study of Albert Luthuli’s Sporting Life,” in Sport and Liberation in South Africa: Reflections and Suggestions, ed. Cornelius Thomas (Alice, South Africa: University of Fort Hare Press, 2006), 66–82.

  • 5. Albertina Luthuli, “Ubaba: Recollections by Ntombazana,” in Luthuli: Speeches of Chief Albert Luthuli, 1898–1967, ed. Enuga S. Reddy (Durban, South Africa: Madiba Press, 1991), 13, 38.

  • 6. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 56–57, 61–62; Logan Naidoo, In the Shadow of Chief Luthuli: Reflections of Goolam Suleiman (Groutville, South Africa: Luthuli Museum, 2010), 15; and Peter Rule, Marilyn Aitken, and Jenny Van Dyk, Nokukhanya: Mother of Light (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 92–93.

  • 7. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 120.

  • 8. Vinson, Albert Luthuli, 28–31. The government formally dissolved the NRC in 1951.

  • 9. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 81. Luthuli did not meet Mahatma Gandhi on this trip (personal communication with E. S. Reddy, September 15, 2015).

  • 10. Wilson Minton to Albert Luthuli, October 27, 1960, in the Albert Luthuli Papers, Schomburg Center for Black Research and Culture, New York Public Library (NYPL), Box 4, Folder 73 (hereafter LPSC).

  • 11. Albert Luthuli, “Mahatma Gandi [sic] Memorial on the Occasion of the Centenary Celebrations of the Washington University,” U.S.A., LM, Folder 2005, 2, 1, Albert Luthuli Museum, Groutville, South Africa.

  • 12. Gandy to President Dr. L. H. Foster, January 14, 1949, PSSC, Box 48, File 15; “Tribute to Luthuli,” New Journal and Guide, August 5, 1967.

  • 13. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 82–84.

  • 14. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 82–84; and Vinson, Albert Luthuli.

  • 15. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 46–47.

  • 16. Luthuli to Frederick Rowe, February 20, 1949, PSSC; and Luthuli, Let My People Go, 86–90.

  • 17. Luthuli mentioned several times that Gandhi and his satyagraha campaigns against Britain had “inspired the ANC’s struggle against apartheid.” Gerald Pillay, Voices of Liberation: Albert Luthuli (Cape Town: HSRC Press, 2012), 31.

  • 18. David Welsh, The Rise and Fall of Apartheid (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009), 110–112; “Minutes of the Meetings of the Working Committee of the African National Congress (Natal) Held on Saturday, Sept. 10, 1952, at Lakhani Chambers, Saville Street, Durban,” Albert Luthuli Papers, Cooperative Africana Microfilm Project (hereafter LPCAMP); Albert Luthuli, “We Go To Action,” August 30, 1952, LPCAMP.

  • 19. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 147–148.

  • 20. “Protest Meetings Against Swart Bills,” Indian Opinion, February 20, 1953; and “Annual Conference of N.I.C.,” Indian Opinion, February 27, 1953.

  • 21. “Let Us Speak Together of Freedom,” Fighting Talk, vol. 10, no. 10, October 1954, in Box 6, Folder 115, LPSC; “Legal Struggle To Resist Apartheid and For Charter,” New Age, November 25, 1954, in “Documents concerning Chief Luthuli: Photocopies 1953–1962” folder, E. S. Reddy papers, Sterling Memorial Library, Yale University (hereafter ESRPY); “Presidential Message to Natal ANC Annual Conference,” October 30, 1954, Box 3, Folder 11, LPSC; and Albert Luthuli and Masabalala B. Yengwa, “Joint Message to the Congress of the People of South Africa: Meeting in Kliptown”, Johannesburg, on June 25–26, 1955, in Box 3 Folder 54, LPSC.

  • 22. Luthuli Presidential Address to Provincial Natal ANC annual meeting, July 26, 1956, Box 4, Folder 19, LPSC; Luthuli to Hooper, June 8, 1956, Box 4, Folder 1, LPSC; Luthuli Presidential Address, July 26, 1956, Box 3, Folder 87, LPSC; Raymond Suttner and Jeremy Cronin, 50 Years of the Freedom Charter (London: Zed Books, 2007), 115; and “Freedom Struggle Must Go On,” New Age, August 2, 1956.

  • 23. Two examples are Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010) and Mark Philip Bradley, The World Reimagined: Americans and Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016). Saul Dubow notes that some factions of the ANC did not consistently engage in human-rights discourse but does not fully explore Luthuli’s human-rights language. Saul Dubow, South Africa’s Struggle for Human Rights (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2012).

  • 24. The text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights can be accessed on the United Nations website.

  • 25. Elizabeth Borgwardt, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 192–93.

  • 26. Anthony Sampson, Mandela (London: Harper Collins, 2011), 103; and Albert Luthuli, foreword to Helen Joseph, If This Be Treason (New York: Contra Mundum Press, 1998).

  • 27. Martin Meredith, Mandela: A Biography (New York: Public Affairs Books, 2011), 132; and Luli Callinicos, Oliver Tambo: Beyond the Engeli Mountains (Cape Town: David Philip, 2004), 188.

  • 28. Raymond Suttner, The ANC Underground in South Africa (Johannesburg: Jacana Media, 2008), 47.

  • 29. Meredith, Mandela, 145.

  • 30. Drum, November 1959; and Arianna Lissoni, “Transformations in the ANC External Mission and Umkhonto we Sizwe, c. 1960–1969,” Journal of Southern African Studies 35, no. 2 (2009): 292.

  • 31. Luthuli, Let My People Go, 219; Pillay, Voices of Liberation, 23. The ANC called for an international boycott against apartheid South Africa in December 1958 at the All-African Peoples’ Conference in Accra, Ghana. Luthuli renewed his call for sanctions at the 1959 ANC conference. Walter Sisulu wrote an important exposition on the utility of the boycott for the South African situation, noting its various historical uses in Ireland, Russia, and India, as well as in South Africa. Walter Sisulu, “Boycott As A Political Weapon,” Liberation, February 23, 1957.

  • 32. Sifiso Ndlovu, “The ANC and the World,” in , The Road to Democracy, vol. 1 (1960–70) (South African Democracy Education Trust ([hereafter SADET]), 549–550.

  • 33. Quoted in Pillay, Voices of Liberation, 24.

  • 34. Hendrik Verwoerd, Verwoerd Speaks: Speeches, 1948–1966, ed. A. N. Pelzer (Johannesburg: APB, 1966), 23–29.

  • 35. Hendrik Verwoerd, quoted in Connie Field, “The Road to Resistance,” part 1, Have You Heard from Johannesburg: Seven Stories from the Global Anti-Apartheid Movement (Berkeley, CA: Clarity Films, 2010).

  • 36. Liberation, July 1959.

  • 37. Frederik W. De Klerk, The Last Trek: A New Beginning (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), 31.

  • 38. Rule, et al., Nokukhanya, 106.

  • 39. Natal Daily News, May 29, 1959.

  • 40. Kader Asmal, David Chidester, and Wilmot James, eds., South Africa’s Nobel Laureates: Peace, Literature, and Science (Johannesburg: Jonathan Ball, 2004), 63.

  • 41. Mary Louise Hooper, “Profilee: Albert John Luthuli, c. 1961,” Memoirs S. A. folder, Mary-Louise Hooper Papers, Special Collections, Michigan State University.

  • 42. Nokukhanya Luthuli quoted in Rule, et al., Nokukhanya: Mother of Light, 108.

  • 43. Jill Kelly also illustrates Nokukhanya Luthuli’s lesser-known political activities. See Jill Kelly, “Gender, Shame, and the ‘Efficacy of Congress Methods of Struggle’ in 1959 Natal Women’s Rural Revolts,” South African Historical Journal 71, no. 2 (2019): 17.

  • 44. Dubow, South Africa’s Struggle for Human Rights, 13–14; “Top U.S. Diplomat in South Africa Sees Luthuli,” Sunday Times, September 20, 1959; Box 6, Folder 115, LPSC; and “Make December 10 A Worthy Anniversary,” New Age, December 3, 1959.

  • 45. Natal Mercury, October 27, 1961; Minister of Interior Jan De Klerk, press statement, November 3, 1961.

  • 46. Gunnar Jahn, “Award Ceremony Speech,” The Nobel Prize. .

  • 47. Nobel Lecture delivered by Chief Albert Luthuli, Oslo University, December 11, 1961, typescript, Folder B4-7; Luthuli Papers, A3337, LP: WITS; and Jabulani Sithole, “Chief Albert Luthuli and Bantustan Politics,” in Zulu Identities: Being Zulu Past and Present, eds. Benedict Carton, John Laband, and Jabulani Sithole (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 331.

  • 48. Nobel Lecture delivered by Chief Albert Luthuli, Oslo University, December 11, 1961, typescript, Folder B4-7; and Luthuli Papers, A3337, LP: WITS.

  • 49. Kenneth Broun, Saving Nelson Mandela: The Rivonia Trial and the Fate of South Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 102–15.

  • 50. The UN Special Committee on Apartheid led by Enuga S. Reddy provided data and testimony to the General Assembly and Security Council, with the aim of fostering boycotts, arms embargoes, and wide condemnation of South Africa. For ACOA anti-apartheid and civil-rights activity during the Cold War, see Phyllis Martin, “A Moral Imperative: The Role of American Black Churches in International Anti-Apartheid Activism” (PhD diss., George Mason University, 2015), 104–193; Ryan Irwin, Gordian Knot: Apartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 78–79; Francis Nesbitt, Race Against Sanctions: African Americans Against Apartheid, 1946–1994 (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2004); Thomas Borstelmann, The Cold War and the Color Line: American Race Relations in the Global Arena (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001); and Brenda Plummer, Rising Wind: Black Americans and U.S. Foreign Affairs, 1935–1960 (Chapel Hill, NC: UNC Press,1996).

  • 51. Lewis Baldwin, ed., In a Single Garment of Destiny: A Global Vision of Justice (Boston: Beacon Press, 2012), 31.

  • 52. Martin King, Jr., “Address on South African Independence,” December 7, 1964, London, quoted by Lewis Baldwin, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Coalition of Conscience,” in Freedom’s Distant Shores: American Protestants and Post-colonial Alliances, ed. R. Drew Smith (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2006), 65. King linked the “struggle for freedom in the United States . . . [to what was] going on in South Africa”: Martin King, Jr., “Apartheid in South Africa,” July 12, 1963, 1–3, Archives of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Atlanta, Georgia.

  • 53. Martin Luther King, Jr. Acceptance Speech,” The Nobel Prize. For King’s ongoing anti-apartheid activism, see Baldwin, In a Single Garment of Destiny.

  • 54. Vinson, Albert Luthuli, 130.

  • 55. Rule, et al., Nokukhanya, 137, 142, cited in Vinson, Albert Luthuli, 131.

  • 56. Albert Luthuli, public statement, “The Road to Freedom is Via the Cross,” November 11, 1952, reprinted in Albert Luthuli, Luthuli, Speeches of Chief Albert Luthuli, 1898–1967, compiled by Enuga S. Reddy (Durban, South Africa: Madiba, 1991), 10–13.

  • 57. H. G. M. Bass to G. E. B. Shannon, Commonwealth Relations Office, November 7, 1961, File Name, South Africa: ANC and PAC, Apartheid South Africa 1948–1966, Dominions Office (DO) 180/6.

  • 58. See Ray Suttner, “The Road to Freedom Is Via the Cross: ‘Just Means’ in Chief Albert Luthuli’s Life,” South African Historical Journal 62, no. 4 (2010): 699–700; Scott Couper, “Emasculating Agency: An Unambiguous Assessment of Albert Luthuli’s Stance on Violence,” South African Historical Journal 64, no. 3 (2012): 567, 569; Scott Couper, Albert Luthuli: Bound By Faith (Scottsville, University of KwaZulu-Natal Press): 2010), 111–184; Scott Couper, “An Embarrassment to the Congresses? The Silencing of Chief Albert Luthuli and the Production of ANC history,” Journal of Southern African Studies 35, no. 2 (2009): 331–348; and Stephen Ellis, External Mission: The ANC in Exile 1960-1990 (Oxford: 2013), 12, 25–26.

  • 59. Paul Landau, “The ANC, MK, and ‘The Turn to Violence’ (1960–62),” South African Historical Journal 64, no. 3 (2012): 538–563; and Paul Landau, “Controlled by Communists? (Re) Assessing the ANC in its Exilic Decades,” South African Historical Journal 67, no. 2 (2015): 223–224.