Americans have sometimes seen the campaign against South African apartheid as a reprise of their own civil rights movement. P. W. Botha and other Afrikaners with clipped accents seem to have inherited the Bull Connor role, while the impossibly heroic Nelson Mandela might have emerged from a 27-year stay in a Birmingham jail. But this particular drama had its own mercurial character, in part reflecting the complicated, very human Desmond Tutu.
No one better embodied the contradictory times. Standing all of five foot three, Bishop Tutu could whip a crowd into a frenzy, then insist on nonviolence. He was given to making intemperate remarks and offering breathtaking forgiveness all in the same speech. The title of John Allen’s biography captures the seesaw spirit of this “rabble-rouser for peace.”