Christianity and black resistance to apartheid in South Africa : a comparison of Albert Lutuli, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, and Desmond Tutu

Graybill, Lyn Shelton, Woodrow Wilson Department of Foreign Affairs, University of Virginia
Thompson, Kenneth W., Miller Center, University of Virginia

The focus of this study is on Christianity and black nationalism. Just as theology (Calvinism) was significant in the formulation of Afrikaner nationalism, so too has theology, variously interpreted, been instrumental in the articulation of African nationalism. The African National Congress (ANC), the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), and the United Democratic Front (UDF) all relied on a Christian perspective and vocabulary to articulate the goals of black nationalism. Religion is thus the thread of continuity that links the resistance movements of the twentieth century.

My study looks at four individuals -- Albert Lutuli, Robert Sobukwe, Steve Biko, and Desmond Tutu -- and demonstrates how each leader's Christian belief influenced the political strategy he pursued within the African National Congress, Pan-Africanist Congress, Black Consciousness Movement, and United Democratic Front, respectively. I focus on their leadership in four major episodes of resistance: the Defiance Campaign of 1952, the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960, the Soweto Uprising of 1976, and the Opposition to the Tricameral Parliament of 1983.

Only recently with the 1988 bannings of eighteen anti-apartheid organizations, which catapulted many religious leaders into politics to fill the void, has the centrality of Christianity to the struggle against apartheid been recognized. I argue, however, that religion has always been paramount in the African resistance movements, and as a pervasive influence deserves to be taken seriously as an engine for change.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Black nationalism -- South Africa, Religion and politics -- South Africa

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

Thesis originally deposited on 2016-03-14 in version 1.28 of Libra. This thesis was migrated to Libra2 on 2017-03-23 16:37:16.

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