‘Black History from the Motherland’: South Africa’s Steve Biko unapologetically fought for Black liberation
February 5, 2018
Steve Biko (born Bantu Stephen Biko) was a South African anti-apartheid activist and leader of the Black Consciousness movement until his assassination in September 1977. An African nationalist and socialist, Biko was at the forefront of fights for Black liberation in the country, leading to a harassment campaign by the government that eventually resulted in his murder.
Raised in a poor Xhosa family, Biko was further politicized when he joined the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) while studying medicine at the University of Natal. There, he saw how the group and others like it were made ineffective by white liberal leadership, and began organizing with Black activists independently.
Inspired by the revolutionary Frantz Fanon and the Black Power movement in the U.S., Biko’s anti-apartheid organizing and calls for universal suffrage was seen as a threat to the government, which placed him under a banning order in 1973, severely restricting his activities. It was during this ban were he was harassed by law enforcement most repeatedly, and ultimately arrested and severely beaten in August 1977, causing injuries that led to his death.