20 January 1986
Bishop Desmond Tutu received the Martin Luther King Jr Award for Non-Violence for his commitment and role during the struggle against apartheid in 1986.

Tutu was honoured for being deeply personally committed to nonviolence and showing extraordinary personal courage in its service. At least twice he has risked his life to save a suspected informer from a murderous mob. When a new constitution was proposed for South Africa in 1983 to defend against the anti-apartheid movement, Tutu attended the launch of the National Forum, an umbrella body of Black Consciousness groups and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC). In August 1983, he was elected Patron of the United Democratic Front (UDF). Tutu’s anti-apartheid and community activism was complemented by that of his wife Leah. She championed the cause for better working conditions for domestic workers in South Africa. 

He received the award in spite of the fact that one of his biggest achievements still had to come - the difficult task as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the 1990s.


Bute, E.L. & Harmer, H.J.P. (1997). The Black Handbook, London: Cassell.