The Essential Steve Biko

Steve Biko died in detention at the age of 30, leaving behind him not just a political movement but a liberating mirror for the black men and women of this country.

This is evident in one of his essays, “Black consciousness and the quest for a true humanity”, and in several of his statements, including his testimony in the 1976 South African Student Organisation trial in Pretoria.

All of these and more are contained in The Essential Steve Biko, is compiled by Robin Malan and published by David Philip in association with Mayibuye Books, University of the Western Cape.

In all Biko’s work and statements, the Frantz Fanon influence can be detected. Even the concept of a black consciousness in liberating black people from their own psychological oppression is a cornerstone of Fanon’s argument.

Be that as it may, Biko was undoubtedly the most articulate spokesperson for black people during the early 1970s. He could pinpoint problems black people were facing in this country at that time – their own feelings of inferiority and self-hate.

At the same time, he could explain the role white liberals had in the struggle of black people.

The book includes a biographical element in pieces by people who knew Biko, including Barney Pityana, Mamphela Ramphele and, of course, the late Donald Woods, on whose friendship with Biko the movie Cry Freedom was based.

Reviewed: September 2013

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