The Legacy of Steve Biko’s Fight Against South African Apartheid

We take a look at how his activism inspired a movement.

By Hatty Lee Sep 14, 2011

This week marks the anniversary of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko’s murder. During the 1960s and 70s, Biko was a leader in empowering and mobilizing black South Africans against the apartheid regime. He was one of the founders of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO), which was the beginning of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). BCM was about cultivating the ability of black people to change the oppressive situation in South Africa by rejecting apartheid. 

Biko’s philosophy influenced South African youth to mobilize and lead to thousands of students protesting in what became the Soweto Uprisings on June 16, 1976.

In September of 1977, Biko was detained, tortured, and ultimately killed by police. For many, he’s become a martyr, and his philosophy is still strong in political activism today.

Steven Biko (Getty Images/Mark Peters)

Meeting of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Johannesburg. January 1985  (United Nations Photo)

Protest meeting of the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Johannesburg. March 1985 (United Nations Photo) 

A voter casts her ballot in a polling station in Edendale Township in Pietermaritz. April 1994 (United Nations Photo/Chris Sattlberger)

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, at Langa Township in Uitenhage. March 1985 (United Nations Photo)

**Note: This post has been updated since first publishing.