Stephen Bantu Biko|
18 December 1946
Ginsberg Township, South Africa
12 September 1977 30) (aged|
Pretoria, South Africa
|Children||5, including Hlumelo Biko|
A student leader, he later founded the Black Consciousness Movement which would empower and mobilize much of the urban black population. Since his death in police custody, he has been called a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement. While living, his writings and activism attempted to empower black people, and he was famous for his slogan "black is beautiful", which he described as meaning: "man, you are okay as you are, begin to look upon yourself as a human being".
Even though Biko was never a member of the African National Congress (ANC), the ANC has included him in the pantheon of struggle heroes, going as far as using his image for 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."
Biko was born to parents Mzingayi Mathew and Alice 'Mamcete' Biko in Ginsberg Township, in the present-day Eastern Cape province of South Africa. His father was a government clerk, while his mother did domestic work in surrounding white homes. The third of four children, Biko grew up with his older sister Bukelwa; his older brother Khaya; and his younger sister Nobandile. His father gave him his name, Bantu Stephen Biko, which Biko is said to have understood to mean "a person is a person by means of other people". In 1950, at the age of four, Biko suffered the loss of his father who was studying law.
Biko was a Xhosa. In addition to Xhosa, he spoke fluent English and fairly fluent Afrikaans. As a child, he attended Brownlee Primary School and Charles Morgan Higher Primary School. He was sent to Lovedale High School in 1964, a prestigious boarding school in Alice, Eastern Cape, where his older brother Khaya had previously been studying. During the apartheid era, with no freedom of association protection for non-white South Africans, Biko was expelled from Lovedale for his political views, and his brother arrested for his alleged association with Poqo (now known as the Azanian People's Liberation Army). After being expelled, he then attended and later graduated from St. Francis College, a Roman Catholic institution in Mariannhill, Natal.
After graduating from St. Francis in 1965 he entered the "non-European" section of the University of Natal Medical School at Wentworth, Durban, in 1966.
Marriage and children
He also had two children with Dr Mamphela Ramphele, a prominent activist within the BCM: a daughter, Lerato, born in 1974, who died of pneumonia when she was only two months old, and a son, Hlumelo, who was born in 1978, after Biko's death.
Biko also had a daughter with Lorraine Tabane, named Motlatsi, born in May 1977.
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Biko was initially involved with the multiracial National Union of South African Students, but after he became convinced that Black, Indian and Coloured students needed an organization of their own, he helped found the South African Students' Organisation (SASO), whose agenda included political self-reliance and the unification of university students in a "black consciousness." In 1968 Biko was elected its first president. SASO evolved into the influential Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). Biko was also involved with the World Student Christian Federation.
In the early 1970s, Biko became a key figure in The Durban Moment. In 1972, he was expelled from the University of Natal because of his political activities and he became honorary president of the Black People's Convention. He was banned by the apartheid government in February 1973, meaning that he was not allowed to speak to more than one person at a time nor to speak in public, was restricted to the King William's Town magisterial district, and could not write publicly or speak with the media. It was also forbidden to quote anything he said, including speeches or simple conversations.
When Biko was banned, his movement within the country was restricted to the Eastern Cape, where he was born. After returning there, he formed a number of grassroots organizations based on the notion of self-reliance: Zanempilo, the Zimele Trust Fund (which helped support former political prisoners and their families), Njwaxa Leather-Works Project and the Ginsberg Education Fund.
In spite of the repression of the apartheid government, Biko and the BCM played a significant role in organising the protests that culminated in the Soweto Uprising of 16 June 1976. In the aftermath of the uprising, which was met with a heavy hand by the security forces, the authorities began to target Biko further.
Death and aftermath
On 18 August 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act No 83 of 1967 and interrogated by officers of the Port Elizabeth security police including Harold Snyman and Gideon Nieuwoudt. This interrogation took place in the Police Room 619 of the Sanlam Building in Port Elizabeth. The interrogation lasted twenty-two hours and included torture and beatings resulting in 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 in the back of a Land Rover, naked and restrained in manacles, and began the 1,100-kilometre (680 mi) drive to Pretoria to take him to a prison with hospital facilities. He was nearly dead owing to the previous injuries. He died shortly after arrival at the Pretoria prison, on 12 September. The police claimed his death was the result of an extended hunger strike, but an autopsy revealed multiple bruises and abrasions and that he ultimately succumbed to a brain hemorrhage from the massive injuries to the head, which many saw as strong evidence that he had been brutally clubbed by his captors. Then Donald Woods, a journalist, editor and close friend of Biko's, along with Helen Zille, later leader of the Democratic Alliance political party, exposed the truth behind Biko's death.
Because of his high profile, news of Biko's death spread quickly, publicizing the repressive nature of the apartheid government. His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people, including numerous ambassadors and other diplomats from the United States and Western Europe. Donald Woods, who photographed his injuries in the morgue as proof of police abuse, was later forced to flee South Africa for England. Woods later campaigned against apartheid and further publicised Biko's life and death, writing many newspaper articles and writing the book, Biko, which was later turned into the film Cry Freedom. Speaking at a National Party conference following the news of Biko's death then–minister of police, Jimmy Kruger said, "I am not glad and I am not sorry about Mr. Biko. It leaves me cold (Dit laat my koud). I can say nothing to you ... Any person who dies ... I shall also be sorry if I die."
After a 15-day inquest in 1978, a magistrate judge found there was not enough evidence to charge the officers with murder because there were no eyewitnesses. On 2 February 1978, based on the evidence given at the inquest, the attorney general of the Eastern Cape stated he would not prosecute. On 28 July 1979, the attorney for Biko's family announced that the South African government would pay them R65,000 ($78,000) in compensation for Biko's death.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was created following the end of minority rule and the apartheid system, reported that five former members of the South African security forces who had admitted to killing Biko were applying for amnesty. Their application was rejected in 1999.
On 7 October 2003, the South African justice ministry announced that the five policemen accused of killing Biko would not be prosecuted because the time limit for prosecution had elapsed and because of insufficient evidence.
A year after his death, some of his writings were collected and released under the title I Write What I Like.
Influences and formation of ideology
Like Frantz Fanon, Biko originally studied medicine, and, like Fanon, Biko developed an intense concern for the development of black consciousness as a solution to the existential struggles that shape existence, both as a human and as an African (see Négritude). Biko can thus be seen as a follower of Fanon and Aimé Césaire, in contrast to more multi-racialist ANC leaders such as Nelson Mandela after his imprisonment at Robben Island, and Albert Luthuli who were first disciples of Gandhi.
Biko saw the struggle for African consciousness as having two stages, "Psychological liberation" and "Physical liberation". The nonviolent influence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. upon Biko is then suspect, as Biko knew that for his struggle to give rise to physical liberation, it was necessary that it exist within the political realities of the apartheid government, and Biko's nonviolence may be seen more as a tactic than a personal conviction.
Biko's relevance in the present
In the present post-Apartheid South Africa, Biko is now revered across the political spectrum despite obvious ideological differences. Many of these people see Biko's philosophy as irrelevant after 1994, as his dream was not met and the African National Congress (ANC) became the ruling party after the first democratic elections. However, in 2004, he was voted 13th in the SABC3's Great South Africans.
However, many present-day social movements, activists, and academics continue to stress the relevance of Biko's black consciousness. This includes a strong critique of voting by writer and political activist Andile Mngxitama who has said that if Biko were alive today, he would not be supporting any political party, would not even vote, but would be marching with the social movements against government.
Biko is buried in the Ginsberg township cemetery, a place called the Steve Biko Garden of Remembrance in the Eastern Cape.
Apart from Donald Woods's book called Biko, his name has been honoured at several universities. Locally, the main Student Union buildings of the University of Cape Town are named in his honour and each year a commemorative Steve Biko lecture, open to all students, is delivered on the anniversary of his death. Internationally, the University of Manchester's student union, the Steve Biko Building, on the Oxford road campus, is named in his honour. Ruskin College, Oxford has a Biko House student accommodation. The bar at the University of Bradford was named after Biko until its closure in 2005. Numerous other venues in Students Unions around the United Kingdom also bear his name. The Santa Barbara Student Housing Cooperative has a house named after Steve Biko, themed to provide a safe, respectful space for people of colour. In London, streets in both Finsbury Park and Hounslow are named after him. At the University of California, Santa Cruz, there is a section of dormitories named "Biko House" located in the Oakes College Multicultural Theme Housing. The Steve Biko Institute was founded in Salvador, Brazil, to support the education and pride of Black Brazilians. The Pretoria Academic Hospital was renamed the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in 2008. Durban University of Technology has acknowledged Steve Biko's contribution to South African Society by naming its largest campus after him. A bronze bust of Steve Biko was unveiled in Freedom Square on this campus as a tribute to him.
References in the arts
- Benjamin Zephaniah wrote a poem titled "Biko The Greatness", included in Zephaniah's 2001 collection, Too Black, Too Strong.
- "The Compound Arcane" is a poem written in 1975 by Jack Hirschman, subtitled Homage to Steve Biko, which is published in The Arcanes. This poem is notable for having been composed before Biko's death, yet already the poet was inspired enough by Biko's life to recognize him as a martyr.
- "In Detention" by Chris van Wyk (b. 1957)
Theatre, film and television
- World in Action recounted Biko's story in a documentary called The Life and Death of Steve Biko, broadcast on ITV in the UK on 3 October 1977.
- A 1979 play titled The Biko Inquest, written by Norman Fenton and Jon Blair. In 1985, a television adaptation of the original stage play was created, directed by Albert Finney and originally aired in the US through HBO in 1985.
- In 1987, Richard Attenborough directed the movie Cry Freedom, a biographical drama starring Kevin Kline as Donald Woods and Denzel Washington as Biko.
- A starship USS Biko appears in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "A Fistful of Datas."
- The most widely known musical tribute was by British musician Peter Gabriel, who released "Biko", which became a UK hit single in 1980. Gabriel's song has subsequently been recorded by artists including Robert Wyatt, Joan Baez, Simple Minds, Manu Dibango and Paul Simon.
- A Tribe Called Quest titled a song after Steve Biko on their 1993 album Midnight Marauders.
- Steel Pulse dedicated the song "Biko's Kindred Lament" to Steve Biko on the album Tribute To The Martyrs.
- Civil disobedience
- Frances Ames
- List of people subject to banning orders under apartheid
- Nonviolent resistance
- Mothibeli, Tefo. "Mamphela Ramphele: Academic Giant and Ray of Hope", Financial Mail, Johannesburg, 7 July 2006.
- Daley, Suzanne, "The Standards Bearer", New York Times, 13 April 1997.
- "Stephen Bantu Biko". South African history Online. September 2007. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
- "Background: Steve Biko: martyr of the anti-apartheid movement". BBC News. 8 December 1997. Retrieved 16 April 2007.
- Biko, Steve (1986). I Write What I Like. San Francisco: Harper & Row. pp. 103–104.
- See, for instance, Rian Malan's book My Traitor's Heart.
- "Row clouds Biko anniversary". BBC News. 12 September 2002. Retrieved 18 December 2013.
- Elizabeth J. Verwey; HSRC Press (1995). New Dictionary of South African Biography, Volume 1. books.google.com. ISBN 978-07969-1648-8.
- Leslie M. Alexander, Walter C. Rucker; ABC-CLIO (2010). ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY 3 VOLUME. books.google.com. p. 643. ISBN 978-1851097692.
- Lindy Wilson (2012). Steve Biko (Ohio Short Histories of Africa). Ohio University Press. pp. 19, 22. ISBN 978-0821420256.
- Wilson, Lindy; Selassie, Bereket Habte; Harsch, Ernest; Nzongola-Ntalaja, Georges (2015-02-17). African Leaders of the Twentieth Century: Biko, Selassie, Lumumba, Sankara. Ohio University Press. ISBN 9780821421611.
- "Black Consciousness and the Quest for True Humanity" (PDF). Rutgers University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2013.
- "Biko, Stephen Bantu (1946–1977)". blackwellreference.com. 24 June 2013.
- F. Abiola Irele, Biodun Jeyifo (2010). The Oxford Encyclopedia of African Thought, Volume 1. Oxford University Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-0195334739.
- Wilson (2012). Steve Biko. p. 23.
- Peter Joyce (2007). The Making of a Nation: South Africa's Road to Freedom. books.google.com. p. 142. ISBN 978-1770073128.
- Martin, G. (2012-12-23). African Political Thought. Springer. ISBN 9781137062055.
- "King William's Town's hero: Steve Biko 1946 – 1977". Buffalo City Government. Retrieved 2 September 2007.
- Appiah, Kwame Anthony; Henry Louis Gates, Jr (1997). The Dictionary of Global Culture. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. pp. 76–77. ISBN 0-394-58581-X.
- Black Consciousness in Dialogue: Steve Biko, Richard Turner and the "Durban Moment" in South Africa, 1970 – 1974, Ian McQueen, SOAS, 2009
- "Martyr of Hope: A Personal Memoir" by Aelred Stubbs C.R., in Biko, Steve (2002). I Write What I Like. Chicago: Harper & Row. p. 161.
- Pillay, Verashni (12 September 2007). "Keeping Steve Biko alive was really hard but we succeeded". News24. Archived from the original on 17 October 2007. Retrieved 19 September 2007.
- Helen, Zille (9 September 2007). "Steve Biko's legacy lives on". IOL.co.za.
- Biko by Donald Woods. Originally published by Paddington Press, London and New York, 1978; later edition published by Henry Holt, New York, 1987
- Blandy, Fran (31 Dec 2007). "SA editor's escape from apartheid, 30 years on". Mail & Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Whitaker, Raymond (8 October 2003). "No prosecution for death of anti-apartheid activist Biko". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- "South Africa Will Pay Biko Kin $78,000". Youngstown Vindicator. Associated Press. 28 July 1979. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- "No prosecution of Biko's interrogators". The Calgary Herald. Reuter. 2 February 1978. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
- Biko, Steve; Mpumlwana, Thoko (1997). Aelred Stubbs, ed. I Write What I Like: A selection of his writings. London: Bowerdean Pub. ISBN 9780906097496.
- Stiebel, Lindy (2005). Still Beating the Drum: Critical Perspectives on Lewis Nkosi. Rodopi. p. 80.
- Kee, Alistair (2006). The rise and demise of black theology. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
- Heinrichs, Ann (2001). Mahatma Gandhi. Gareth Stevens. p. 12.
- Lens, Sidney (1963). Africa — Awakening Giant. Putnam. p. 180.
- Wiredu, Kwasi; William E. Abraham; Abiola Irele; Ifeanyi A. Menkiti (2003). Companion to African philosophy. Blackwell Publishing.
- "Why Steve Biko wouldn't vote". Andile Mngxitama. Pambazuka News.
- Mngxitama, Andile; Andile Mngxitama; Amanda Alexander; Nigel C. Gibson (2008). Biko Lives! Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko. Palgrave Macmillan.
- "A homemade politics' Rights, democracy and social movements in South Africa". Matt Birkinshaw. Abahlali baseMjondolo.
- "Steve Biko Road", LondonTown.
- "Steve Biko Way", LondonTown.
- Martins, Alejandra (25 May 2005). "Black Brazilians learn from Biko". BBC News. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- Newsbeat. "The Steve Biko Academic Hospital". Pah.org.za. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
- "The Life and Death of Steve Biko (1977) Part 1". Headlines Africa. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- "The Biko Inquest". IMDb.
- Dorian Lynskey (26 July 2012). "Peter Gabriel on 30 years of Womad – and mixing music with politics". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 September 2014.
- 1972 Interview with Steve Biko.
- Biko, Steve (1987). Aelred Stubbs, ed. I Write What I Like: A Selection of His Writings. Heinemann. ISBN 978-0-435-90598-9.
- Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa; ed. Millard Arnold; Random House, New York. 1978.
- Biko, Stephen Bantu (1984). Arnold Millard, ed. The Testimony of Steve Biko. Panther Books, Granada Publ.
- Woods, Donald (2011). Biko - Cry Freedom. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-1-4299-3638-5.
- Lewis Gordon, New Introduction to I Write What I Like.
- Black Consciousness: The dialectics of liberation in South Africa by Nigel Gibson
- Goodwin, June; Schiff, Ben (13 November 1995). "Who Killed Steve Biko?: Exhuming Truth in South Africa". The Nation. New York: The Nation Company. 261 (16): 565–568. ISSN 0027-8378.
- Bernstein, Hilda (1978). No. 46-Steve Biko. International Defence & Aid Fund. ISBN 978-0-317-36653-2.
- Mngxitama, Andile; Alexander, Amanda; Gibson, Nigel (2008). Biko Lives!: Contesting the Legacies of Steve Biko. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-60649-4.
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- Thesis on the prospects of Bikoism in today's South Africa
- The Steve Biko Foundation
- The relevance of Black Consciousness today
- Donald Woods talks in 1987 about his friendship with Steve Biko
- Black Consciousness: The dialectics of liberation.