forty years after ~ his death, Steve Biko walk not have the profile of other black civil legal rights leaders in south Africa. Biko was a key figure in the black Consciousness Movement and died in police custody top top September 12, 1977.


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Biko suggested psychological liberation was an important factor in the struggle: "the many potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the psychic of the oppressed," he said.
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Biko (left) addresses board of directors members of the south African Students organization at the college of Natal, Durban in July, 1971.
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In September 1977, Biko was killed in police custody. The scenarios of his fatality were only later on exposed, laying ceiling the violence of the apartheid state.
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The children of Steve Biko provide a Black strength salute as they sit at home with their aunt, Biko"s sister Nobandile Mvovo, September 1977.
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vast crowds gathered because that the funeral that Biko on September 25, 1977. In life, among his renowned slogans was "black is beautiful."
Nontsikelelo Ntsikie Biko, Steve Biko"s wife (second right) sits with Biko"s mommy (right), brother and sister at the inquest into the civil civil liberties activist"s death.
Nkosinathi Biko, boy of Steve Biko, at a press conference on march 31, 1998. 5 policemen confessed come their function in the death of Steve Biko in 1977 and sought amnesty as part of the Truth and also Reconciliation Commission. Their request was rejected.
Editor’s Note: Matthew Graham is lecturer in history at the university of Dundee. The see expressed in this commentary are solely those that the writer. keolistravelservices.com is showcasing the work of The Conversation, a collaboration between journalists and academics to administer news analysis and commentary. The contents is produced solely by The Conversation.


when Nelson Mandela, Oliver Tambo, and also Desmond Tutu space rightly venerated because that their duty in opposing and ending white minority ascendancy in southern Africa, another leader of the liberation years has actually been remarkable overlooked: Bantu Steven Biko, that led the enormously significant Black consciousness Movement. Four years after his fatality in police custody top top September 12 1977, he deserves come be well-known as one of the towering heroes of the anti-apartheid struggle.


Former southern African chairman Nelson Mandela smiles during an interview v the media in ~ his home in Qunu, on July 18, 2008. Previous South afri president Nelson Mandela bemoaned the farming gap in between rich and poor in his country as he marked his 90th birthday. AFP picture POOL Themba Hadebe (Photo credit need to read THEMBA HADEBE/AFP/Getty Images)

black Consciousness re-energized black opposition to apartheid and also helped attract the world’s attention to the brutality of south Africa’s white minority rule. It started after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, when developed liberation motions such together the African nationwide Congress (ANC) and also the Pan Africanist conference (PAC) were banned by the southern African government and also forced right into exile. Through the arranged opposition supposedly moribund, the southern African state presided over an financial boom because that the white minority and also created the conditions for apartheid’s so-called gold age.

In 1969, v overt politics activism and leadership mostly dormant, black color Consciousness emerged from the south African Students’ organization to to fill the void. Biko promoted that black liberation would just follow once psychological liberation native the internalized acceptance of racial oppression to be achieved, saying that “the many potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”.

in ~ its heart, black Consciousness request pride, self-assertion, and self-confidence. Biko’s idea was the this would consequently stimulate a “revolution the the mind”, permitting oppressed individuals to conquer the racial inferiority and also fear propagated through white racism so they might appreciate the they to be not simply “appendages come the white society”. This reasonably simple idea radically adjusted perceptions that the struggle. It assisted instil a new cultural and mental outlook amongst the black population, and thereby fix up the challenge to the apartheid system.

Biko turned principles into a potent new weapon, and also the white decimal state was slow to evaluate that the spread out of ideas could not be consisted of by physical pressure alone. As a consequence, Biko was provided a banning order in 1973, i m sorry confined him to King William’s town in the eastern Cape, and also prevented him from speak in public.


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Ahmed Kathrada.
Ahmed Kathrada, anti-apartheid activist and Mandela ally, dies




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In fact, together Nelson Mandela placed it, the apartheid state was so fearful of Biko’s influence that “they had actually to death him to prolong the life the apartheid”.

In 1977, Biko was eliminated in police custody after ~ brutal interrogation and torture. Regardless of a succeeding political cover up, the situations of his death were exposed, laying ceiling the violence that the apartheid state. His fatality led to better international pressure against white decimal rule, an especially via the global Anti-Apartheid Movement and influential human being such as white journalist and also activist Donald Woods, whose friendship through Biko was the subject of the 1987 movie “Cry Freedom.”

Squeezed out

for this reason why hasn’t black color Consciousness left as deep an institutional footprint together the ANC and also its like? component of the prize is that as a movement, it was fairly weak organizationally.

beyond its activists’ community projects, black color Consciousness was never an efficient or broad-based organization; with many of its leaders imprisoned or banned by the mid-1970s, that was mostly an intellectual movement confined to south Africa’s metropolitan areas. As freshly politicized southern Africans variously joined and also formed alternate organizations, that fragmented and also began to shed influence. By 1977, the was deemed illegal under the interior Security Act, and Biko’s killing robbed it of the intellectual and political leader.

however the movement was long outlived by its ideology. Ideas are very complicated to extinguish, and also they nothing necessarily need an institutional residence to flourish. The “revolutionary consciousness” Biko referred to as for allowed people to evaluate their subjugation, and to take it action. It motivated the youngsters of Soweto come protest versus the imposition that Afrikaans in schools in 1976, leading to an uprising that recorded the world attention and put the regime under more pressure 보다 ever.


In fact, black Consciousness to be a an ext powerful catalyst 보다 the developed liberation movements. That “freed” minds, revitalized and mobilized politics opposition, and also re-energized the decreasing ANC together militant young activists joined the exiled equipped struggle.

Yet since the end of apartheid in 1994, the administer ANC has operated hard to monopolize the history of liberation. A plethora of groups including black Consciousness, the United democratic Front, the PAC, and also student institutions were all affiliated in the anti-apartheid struggle, however the ANC has worked to neglect the initiatives of alternate actors. To fully recognize the power and also influence the Biko’s concepts would disrupt the ANC’s desired version of history.

So even though Biko became a martyr for the anti-apartheid battle in his day, that is too regularly left out of the story. The exact same goes for other numbers who helped topple the system, particularly those that worked outside the ANC. It’s lengthy past time to correctly celebrate this other aspects of the battle – of who Steve Biko to be surely among the strongest.