Atlanta leaders to honor Desmond Tutu a year after his death

Archbishop Desmond Tutu speaks at the Clinton Global Initiative, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 in New York.

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

An event at the Woodruff Arts Center will honor the South African theologian and Nobel Peace Prize winner — Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Tutu found a second home in Atlanta during his life of human rights activism.

He made history with Atlanta-based Coca-Cola in the mid-’80s by persuading the company to divest its assets from South Africa until the racist and oppressive apartheid regime ended. Tutu also helped unite the fiercely divided country in the aftermath.

From the late 1940s to 1994, the apartheid regime oppressed the Black South African population, which lacked basic political, economic and social freedoms. Their plight went unnoticed for much of that era, only becoming more widely known in the U.S. in the 1980s.

While some scholars have critiqued the company, writing that Coca-Cola’s ultimate motive was to minimize risks to profits — the international condemnation and sanctions against South Africa had an impact.

Former Coca-Cola executive vice president Carl Ware worked closely with Tutu, and called him “a dear friend.”

Ware joined WABE’s “Morning Edition” to give Atlanta a sense of the event, “Tutu’s Legacy Lives in Us” — held days before what would have been his 91st birthday.

Tutu died last December in Cape Town, South Africa, at the age of 90.

Lily Oppenheimer contributed to this report.