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Steve Biko

Lindy Wilson

Publication Year: 2012

Steve Biko inspired a generation of black South Africans to claim their true identity and refuse to be a part of their own oppression. Through his example, he demonstrated fearlessness and self-esteem, and he led a black student movement countrywide that challenged and thwarted the culture of fear perpetuated by the apartheid regime. He paid the highest price with his life. The brutal circumstances of his death shocked the world and helped isolate his oppressors.

This short biography of Biko shows how fundamental he was to the reawakening and transformation of South Africa in the second half of the twentieth century—and just how relevant he remains. Biko’s understanding of black consciousness as a weapon of change could not be more relevant today to “restore people to their full humanity.”

As an important historical study, this book’s main sources were unique interviews done in 1989—before the end of apartheid—by the author with Biko’s acquaintances, many of whom have since died.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Series: Ohio Short Histories of Africa


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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 5-6

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pp. 7-10

This brief biography of Bantu Stephen Biko is grounded in relevant published literature. Much written evidence has been lost, was deliberately destroyed or carefully not recorded, out of fear of reprisals in a fearful age. Thus Biko’s story draws substantially from interviews. ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 11-17

On 12 September 1977 ‘business as usual’ for the South African Security Police claimed the life of Bantu Stephen Biko, the twenty-first person to die in a South African prison within a period of twelve months. Biko was 30 years old. ...

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2. Early years, 1946–1965

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pp. 18-29

Bantu Stephen Biko was born on 18 December 1946 in Tarkastad, in the Eastern Cape, the third child of Mzingaye and Alice Nokuzola ‘Mamcethe’ Biko. His birth, in his grandmother’s home, included the traditional smearing and burying of the umbilical cord into the floor of the room where he was born. ...

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3. Student action and style of leadership, 1966–1972

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pp. 30-53

In 1966 Biko went to UNNE at Wentworth in Durban to study medicine. He entered the university keen for debate and participation in student politics. In his first year he went as an observer to the July congress of the National Union of South African Students (Nusas), in spite of the many black student groups ...

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4. To love and to work

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pp. 54-75

‘Freud was once asked what he thought a normal person should be able to do well,’ Erik Erikson tells us. And Freud had replied: ‘Lieben und arbeiten’, to love and to work. Erikson goes on to say that ‘it pays to ponder on this simple formula; it grows deeper as you think about it. ...

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5. Bantu – Son of Man, 1973–1977

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pp. 76-111

In October 1972, aged 25, Biko was interviewed by Gail Gerhart, the American academic and writer. In discussing the apartheid government Biko said that if they were intelligent, they could ‘create a capitalist black society’; that South Africa was one country in Africa where blacks might compete favourably with whites in industry, ...

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6. Choices and dilemmas

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pp. 112-117

In spite of not having been in agreement with the decision to defy the ban on the Curries Fountain meeting, it must have been a relief for Biko to have performed his task well at the Saso–BPC Trial. When those in the trial had begun to be arrested in 1974, Biko expressed in a letter to Father Stubbs ...

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7. Detentions, banishment and international engagement

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pp. 118-128

There was a crackdown in the King William’s Town area. One month after the Soweto Uprising, on 15 July 1976, Mapetla Mohapi was arrested and detained at Kei Road police station under the Terrorism Act. He died in detention three weeks later on 5 August. This was a tremendous shock. ...

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8. Arrest

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pp. 129-142

When he spoke those words, Biko had long since set out on that course. Only a few days later, he left for Cape Town on 17 August, once again breaking his banning order. Through Peter Jones he had a longstanding plan to meet with various people there. There was also a need to settle some possible dissension within the BC ranks. ...

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9. A life still to be ‘dug out’

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pp. 143-154

Barney Pityana was still in prison on 12 September, the day Biko died, and was not told of his death. That night he had a dream. He dreamt that he had ‘this enormous discussion with Steve where he was saying, more or less, “I am leaving. You must look after my children”, and I saying, “You know it’s not my business to look after your children ...


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pp. 155-157


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pp. 158-160

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444412
E-ISBN-10: 0821444417
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821420256
Print-ISBN-10: 0821420259

Page Count: 160
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: Ohio Short Histories of Africa
Series Editor Byline: John Smith, Will Wordsworth See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 816041795
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Steve Biko

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Subject Headings

  • Biko, Steve, 1946-1977.
  • Political activists -- South Africa.
  • South Africa -- History -- 1961-1994.
  • South Africa -- Race relations.
  • South Africa -- Politics and government -- 1994-.
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