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Bound by faith: a biographic and ecclesiastic examination (1898-1967) of Chief Albert Luthuli's stance on violence as a strategy to liberate South Africa.

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Much public historical mythology asserts that Chief Albert Luthuli, the onetime leader of Africa's oldest liberation movement, launched an armed struggle on the very eve he returned to South Africa after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. This profound irony engenders what is arguably one of the most relevant and controversial historical debates in South African as some recent scholarship suggests Luthuli did not countenance the armed movement. Today, Luthuli remains a figure of great contestation due to his domestic and international prominence and impeccable moral character. Icons of the liberation struggle, political parties and active politicians understand their justification for past actions and their contemporary relevance to be dependent upon a given historical memory of Luthuli. Often that memory is not compatible with the archival record. Contrary to a nationalist inspired historical perspective, this investigation concludes that Luthuli did not support the initiation of violence in December 1961. Evidence suggests that Luthuli only reluctantly yielded to the formation (not the initiation) of an armed movement months before the announcement in October 1961 that he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in December 1961. After the announcement, Luthuli vociferously argued against the use of violence until April 1962. From April 1962 to his death in 1967, Luthuli only advocated non-violent methods and did not publicly support or condemn the use of violence. Congregationalism imbedded within Luthuli the primacy of democracy, education, multiracialism and egalitarianism, propelling him to the heights of political leadership prior to 1961. Following 1961 these same seminal emphases rendered Luthuli obsolete as a political leader within an increasingly radicalised, desperate and violent environment. The author argues that not only did the government drastically curtail Luthuli's ability to lead, but so did his colleagues in the underground structures ofthe Congresses' liberation movement, rendering him only the titular leader ofthe African National Congress until his death. While Luthuli's Christian faith provided the vigour for his political success, it engendered the inertia for his political irrelevance following the launch of violence. By not supporting the African National Congress' initiation of the violent movement, Luthuli's political career proved to be 'bound by faith'.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2008.


Luthuli, Albert John, 1898-1967., Church and state--South Africa., Violence--South Africa., Government, Resistance to--South Africa., Theses--History.