Steve Biko

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Stephen Biko

Stephen Bantu Biko (December 18, 1946September 12 1977) was a noted anti-apartheid activist in South Africa in the 1960s. Because he was dissatisfied with the National Union of South African Students, he helped found the South African Students' Organization in 1968 and was elected its first president. In 1972, Biko became honorary president of the Black People's Convention. He was banned during the height of apartheid in March 1973, meaning that he was not allowed to speak to more than one person at a time and so could not make speeches in public. It was also forbidden to quote anything he said, including speeches or simple conversations, or to otherwise mention him.

On September 6, 1977, he was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967. He suffered a major head injury while in police custody and was chained to a window grill for a full day. On September 11, police loaded him into the back of a car and began the 740-mile drive to another prison. He died en route. Police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike.

On October 7, 2003, South African Justice Ministry officials announced that the five policemen who were accused of killing Biko would not be prosecuted because of insufficient evidence. They said a murder charge could not be supported partly because there were no witnesses to the killing. Charges of culpable homicide and assault were also considered, but because the killing occurred in 1977, the time frame for prosecution had expired. [1] (

Voted 13th in 2004 in the top 100 great South Africans list.



  • "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."
    ("White Racism and Black Consciousness", in I Write What I Like)
  • "The logic behind white domination is to prepare the black man for the subservient role in this country. Not so long ago this used to be freely said in parliament, even about the educational system of the black people. It is still said even today, although in a much more sophisticated language. To a large extent the evil-doers have succeeded in producing at the output end of their machine a kind of black man who is man only in form. This is the extent to which the process of dehumanization has advanced.”
    ("We Blacks", ibid.)
  • "The system concedes nothing without demand, for it formulates its very method of operation on the basis that the ignorant will learn to know, the child will grow into an adult and therefore demands will begin to be made. It gears itself to resist demands in whatever way it sees fit."
    ("The Quest for a True Humanity", ibid.)
  • "In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift—a more human face."
  • "It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die."
  • "Even today, we are still accused of racism. This is a mistake. We know that all interracial groups in South Africa are relationships in which whites are superior, blacks inferior. So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior."

References in the arts




Further reading

External links


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