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Remembering Steve Biko: 7 quotes from the struggle icon

Today remember Steve Bantu Biko, the best-known martyr of the struggle against apartheid. A thinker, freedom fighter, writer and the founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, we celebrate Biko’s remarkable legacy.



As we remember the fallen hero, we remember some of the words he left us with during his time as a leader in the quest for black people to better understand themselves and thereby affirm their rightful place in the world.

1. 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. Its essence is the realisation by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression – the blackness of their skin – and to operate as a group to rid themselves of the shackles that bind them to perpetual servitude. – The Quest for a True Humanity, I Write What I Like, 1978.

2. “Black man, you are on your own.” – Slogan coined by Steve Biko for the South African Student’s Organisation, SASO.

Steve Biko. Photo: Steve Biko Foundation

Steve Biko. Photo: Steve Biko Foundation

3. “Even today, we are still accused of racism. This is a mistake. We know that all interracial groups in South Africa are relationships in which whites are superior, blacks inferior. So as a prelude whites must be made to realise that they are only human, not superior. Same with blacks. They must be made to realise that they are also human, not inferior.” – On Black Consciousness.

Steve Biko. Photo: Steve Biko Foundation

Steve Biko. Photo: Steve Biko Foundation

4. “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.
The Definition of Black Consciousness, I Write What I Like, 1978.

5. “It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realise that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality. The first step therefore is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell; to infuse him with pride and dignity, to remind him of his complicity in the crime of allowing himself to be misused and therefore letting evil reign supreme in the country of his birth.
We Blacks, I Write What I Like, 1978.

6. “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.
Speech in Cape Town, 1971.

7. “The basic tenet of black consciousness is that the black man must reject all value systems that seek to make him a foreigner in the country of his birth and reduce his basic human dignity.
From Steve Biko’s evidence given at the SASO/BPC trial, 3 May 1976.