Chief Albert Luthuli

Chief Albert John Luthuli is the Son of John Bungan Luthuli (A Seven-day Adventist Missionary) and Mtonya Gumede. He was born in 1898 close to Bulawayo, Zimbabwe formally known as Rhodesia.

After his father passed away, Luthuli and his mother went back to his ancestral home, which is in Groutville, KwaZula-Natal, South Africa. Luthuli lived with his uncle Martin Luthuli who was the Chief of the Christian Zulus. Luthuli attended school at a missionary school in Groutville.

Luthuli trained as a teacher at Edendale, which is close to Pietermaritzburg. After completing his teaching course Luthuli took the post as the principle and only teacher of the Primary school in the rural area of Blaaubosch in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal. During this time his confirmation into the Methodist Church took place and he became a pastor there.

In 1920, he was granted a bursary from the government to study further in Higher Teacher’s Training; he took additional courses at the Amazimtoti Institute, now known as the Adams College. Once he completed his studies in 1922 he then became the first African to be employed as a teacher at the Adams College. He taught isiZulu and Music and was later put in charge of the School Organisation. In 1928 Luthuli became the secretary of the African Teacher’s Association and in 1933 he became the President of the African Teacher’s Association. He remained employed at Adams College until 1935.

Luthuli received a further scholarship from the University of Fort Hare, however he declined it because he had to support his mother financially.

In 1935, Luthuli finally accepted the request by the elders of Groutville to be the chieftain and so he became Chief Albert John Luthuli, however Luthuli was not born into royalty and Luthuli was awarded this position due to an election. Luthuli held the position as chieftain until he was removed from it in 1953 (18 years) by the Apartheid government.

Political Career

Luthuli joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1944 and was elected onto the Committee of KwaZulu Provincial Division of the ANC in 1945. Six years later Luthuli became the President of the Provincial Division of the ANC. He also joined the ANC leaders in their organisation of peaceful campaigns to resist discrimination laws.

The Apartheid government, charged Luthuli with a conflict of interest, as he was chieftain and part of the ANC. They told him that he needed to resign from the ANC, upon refusal he was dismissed from being the chieftain. After that happened Luthuli was elected as the ANC president-general, Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) leader Potlako Leballo nominated him.

Upon hearing this the Apartheid government banned his movement for two year until 1956. When the ban was over he went to an ANC conference and was arrested and charged with treason after a few months along with 150 other people like: Nelson Mandela, Ahmed Kathrada, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Thambo and Debi Singh.

After a year of being on trial and in custody Luthuli was released from prison and the chargers against him were dropped. He then joined the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, which opened a branch in Southern Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe).

Luthuli was re-elected as president-general in 1955 and in 1958 despite the banning he went through. In 1960, after the Sharpevile Massacre, Luthuli headed the call to protest.

However after a violent out burst by the government killing 71 and wounding hundreds, after being summoned by the government, Luthuli responded by publicly burning his Pass Book.

The government declared a “State of Emergency” and arrested 1800 people in police raids. Luthuli was released but restricted to go anywhere other than his own house in Stranger (KwaDukuza), KwaZulu-Natal.

Nobel Price for Peace

In 1961 Chief Albert Luthuli was awarded the Nobel Price for Peace of the year 1960, for his part in the Anti-Apartheid Struggle. He was elected Rector of Glasgow University in 1962 and he also published his autobiography in that year “Let My People Go”.

On 21 July 1967, while walking outside of his home he was hit by a train and died. However many of his followers do not believe that he was walking by a railway crossing and feel that he was eliminated by other forces.

The Legacy of Chief Albert John Luthuli is preserved as part of the National Liberation Route. You can visit the Albert Luthuli Museum in Groutville, KwaDukuza.

The Albert Luthuli Museum

The Albert Luthuli Museum opened in 2004; it includes the original house that Luthuli stayed in 1927. The Museum represents the life of Albert Luthuli.