God Has a Dream Summary

Overview (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Beginning each chapter with “Dear Child of God,” Desmond Mpilo Tutu, the first black Archbishop of Cape Town (1986-1996), presents in God Has a Dream a pastoral type of intellectual and spiritual memoir that he sees as a “cumulative expression” of his life’s work. Based largely on earlier writings, speeches, and sermons, it provides an invaluable summary of Tutu’s philosophy, with highlights of the South African struggle against apartheid (racial segregation). Written with his friend Douglas Abrams, God Has a Dream describes in detail the events and emotions that surrounded South Africa’s first democratic general election in April, 1994, which is celebrated there each year on April 27 as Liberty Day. Tutu never loses sight of the broader context of global human freedom and dignity. God’s “dream,” on which the book is premised, is described in sweeping terms reminiscent of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during the March on Washington in 1963. This dream, however, is distinctively Tutu’s and South Africa’s.

Archbishop Tutu was deeply involved in the South African struggle long before 1994, working incessantly to try to free long-imprisoned African National Congress (ANC) activist Nelson Mandela and encouraging international sanctions against South Africa and corporate divestment from it. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent efforts against racial injustice in South Africa and beyond. When Tutu retired as Archbishop of Cape Town in 1996, Mandela—by then released from his twenty-seven-year incarceration and elected president of South Africa—appointed him chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was created to bring to light the atrocities of apartheid and to promote reconciliation between former oppressed people and those who had oppressed them.

God Has a Dream is replete with humor, inclusiveness, and deceptively simple challenges based on the notion that all people have a role to play in the...

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God Has a Dream Bibliography (Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Allen, John. Rabble-Rouser for Peace: The Authorized Biography of Desmond Tutu. New York: Free Press, 2006. This award-winning South African journalist’s account underscores Tutu’s commitment to the idea that the only authentic basis for peace is high regard for human rights. Illustrated.

Clark, Nancy L., and William H. Worger. The Rise and Fall of Apartheid. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2004. With its main focus on defining apartheid and explaining why it ended, this four-part history includes strategies for reform, legislation, and reprinted primary sources.

Du Boulay, Shirley. Tutu: Voice of the Voiceless. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1988. This masterful analysis traces Archbishop Tutu’s life from his birth in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, in 1931, through the many stages that made him an internationally respected advocate of oppressed people.

Gish, Steven D. Desmond Tutu: A Biography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004. Presents Tutu as South Africa’s counterpart to Martin Luther King, Jr., and covers his childhood, education, mentors, and spiritual and intellectual journey to becoming South Africa’s first black archbishop.

Hulley, Leonard, Louise Kretzschmar, and Luke Lungile Pato, eds. Archbishop Tutu: Prophetic Witness in South Africa. Cape Town, South Africa: Human and Rousseau, 1996. An inspiring and informative account of Tutu’s philosophy, especially his ubuntu theology, which underscores human interdependence and divine origins.