Who Is South Africa’s Steve Biko And Why Is He On A Google Doodle?

Written by Staff

South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko would have been 70 years old today. He was killed at age 30 by South African police while in detention. Biko fought to promote black consciousness during apartheid.

While in medical school, Biko co-founded South Africa’s Black Consciousness Movement, which rejected apartheid and encouraged black people to have pride in their racial identity and culture.

Google is honoring the memory of Biko today with a doodle, altering the logo on its homepage — something the search engine does to celebrate achievements, people, holidays and events.


From The Telegraph. Story by David Millward

Apart from Nelson Mandela, nobody symbolized the struggle against the apartheid more than Steve Biko.

The leader of the Black Consciousness movement, he was arrested at a police road block in August 1977 and held under the country’s terrorism legislation. He died shortly after arriving at Pretoria prison the following month.

Biko was born on Dec. 18 1946. This would have been his 70th birthday. Google is commemorating his birth with a doodle in recognition of his role in the history of South Africa.

“On the 70th anniversary of Biko’s birth, we remember his courage and the important legacy he left behind. Thank you, Steve Biko, for dedicating your life to the pursuit of equality for all,” Google said.

Biko was born in the Ginsberg Township in what is today South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.

The third of four children, he was educated at Lovedale, a boarding school in Alice, Eastern Cape, before graduating from St Francis College, Roman Catholic institution in Mariannhill, Natal.

He then studied medicine at the non European section of the University of Natal.

Involved with the National Union of South African Students, he felt that black, colored and Indian students needed their own body.

This led to the creation of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) which eventually became the Black Consciousness Movement.

“Black Consciousness is an attitude of the mind and a way of life, the most positive call to emanate from the black world for a long time,” he said.

His activism led to his expulsion from Lovedale and from Natal University.

In February 1973 Biko was banned, which meant he could not travel, address a public gathering or speak to more than one person at a time.

Undaunted, Biko continued organizing protests.

At Soweto, a squalid township south west of Johannesburg, high school students protested at the use of Afrikaans as the language of instruction.

It culminated in scenes which shocked with world with 170 people, mainly children, being gunned down by the police. As the international community united in condemnation, the South African government targeted Black Consciousness activists.

Biko was arrested on Aug. 27, 1976, and held in solitary confinement for 101 days before being released.

He was arrested at a police road block. Stripped and manacled for 20 days, he was taken to the headquarters of security police in Port Elizabeth.

Badly beaten he was shackled to a grill before being taken on a 600-mile journey to Pretoria, where he died shortly arriving at the prison on Sept. 12, 1977.

Police said he died as a result of a hunger strike, which was disputed by his supporters. The magistrate presiding over a 15-day inquest into Biko’s death found the absence of witnesses made it impossible to charge anyone for his murder.

Later the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was created after the fall of apartheid, said that five members of the security forces admitted killing Biko. No action was taken against them.

Biko’s funeral was attended by more than 10,000 people including diplomats from the U.S. and Europe.

Donald Woods, a journalist, was forced to flee South Africa while campaigning to publicize the details of Biko’s death. His book, “Cry Freedom,” was made into an award-winning film directed by Richard Attenborough.

Nelson Mandela said of Biko: “They had to kill him to prolong the life of apartheid.”

Many still see Biko as an icon of the struggle for majority rule.

Read more at The Telegraph.