Steven Biko (1946 - 1977) was born in a small South African town and educated at Anglican and Catholic schools. While in medical school, he joined the National Union of South African Students and then went on to found the South African Student Organization in 1968. Biko's political activities resulted in his being expelled from medical school.

After suffering under the repressive edicts of the government, he made plans for a medical clinic and began to unfold his vision of black consciousness, stressing less dependence on white liberals and more creativity and inspiration from blacks themselves. This emphasis lead to Biko being "detained' several times. His nonviolent quest for change greatly expanded when he provided white newspaper editor Donald Woods with crucial information and details of the human rights violations of the South African regime and its police force.

On August 1, 1977, Biko was taken into custody and found to be in violation of his banning order. A month later, on September 12, he died in prison after being tortured and beaten.

To Name This Day:


Learn more of Biko's life and death by watching Cry Freedom which explores the relationship between the black leader and Donald Woods. Richard Attenborough directs this drama that shows how two men from different worlds are drawn together in a struggle against the racist regime of South Africa. Denzel Washington is charismatic as the soft-spoken leader Steven Biko, whose advocacy of black consciousness and nonviolence inspires his people to new heights of self-esteem. Kevin Kline is also good as his friend and biographer.

Personal Explorations

"It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die," Steven Biko said in one of his speeches. What idea has such a hold on you right now that you would be willing to make sacrifices to see it flourish? Even more radical, what idea or ideal would you be willing to die for?