Today would have been South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko’s 70th birthday.

Born: December 18, 1946, King William’s Town, Eastern Cape, South Africa
Assassinated: September 12, 1977, Pretoria, South Africa
Spouse: Ntsiki Mashalaba (m. 1970–1977)
Books: I Write What I Like, Black Consciousness in South Africa, The Testimony of Steve Biko, Escribo Lo Que Me Da LA Gana
Education: St. Francis College, Natal (1966), University of Natal

Steve Biko was a huge influence in mobilizing the black population oppressed under South Africa’s apartheid regime before he died while under arrest in 1977 at just 30-years-old.

He had been a key figure in setting up various political organizations including the South African Students’ Organization, the Black People’s Convention and the Zimele Trust Fund.

His political activities led to the government banning Biko from speaking in public, but then his involvement in the Soweto Uprising of 1976 led to his arrest the following year.

While South African officials reporetd that Biko died due to a hunger strike, the overwhelming evidence pointed to severe, fatal injuries having been inflicted upon him by his captors. source: Google

On 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 and interrogated by the Port Elizabeth security police, including officers Harold Snyman and Gideon Nieuwoudt. The interrogation took place in Police Room 619 of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth. The 22-hour interrogation included torture and beatings, sending Biko into a coma. He suffered a major head injury while in police custody at the Walmer Police Station in a suburb of Port Elizabeth, and was chained to a window grille for a day.

On 11 September 1977, police loaded him into the back of a Land Rover, naked and manacled, for a 1,100-kilometre (680 mi) drive to Pretoria, where there was a prison that had hospital facilities. He was nearly dead from his injuries, and died shortly after he arrived at the Pretoria prison on 12 September. Police said his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions and found that he succumbed to a brain hemorrhage from massive head injuries. Many saw this as strong evidence that he had been brutally beaten by his captors. Donald Woods, a journalist and editor who had been a close friend of Biko’s, exposed the truth behind Biko’s death, along with Helen Zille, who became the leader of the Democratic Alliance political party.

Biko was never a member of the African National Congress (ANC), but the ANC nonetheless included him in the pantheon of struggle heroes, going so far as to use his image in campaign posters in South Africa’s first non-racial elections in 1994. Nelson Mandela said of Biko: “They had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid.” source: wkipedia

His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people and lead to further protests against the South African apartheid government.

The story of Biko and his death was publicized by Donald Woods in his book Cry Freedom which was made into a film directed by Richard Attenborough starring Denzel Washington.

On the video clip below, Steve Biko speaks on The Black Consciousness Movement In South Africa:

South Africa’s apartheid government policies “officially” governed in the country from 1948  to  1994.




2 responses to “STEVE BIKO: CRY FREEDOM!


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