Who Was Steve Biko?

Steve Biko was an anti-apartheid activist and the co-founder of the South African Students' Organization, subsequently spearheading the nation's Black Consciousness Movement. He also co-founded the Black People's Convention in 1972. Biko was arrested many times for his anti-apartheid work and, on September 12, 1977, died from injuries that he sustained while in police custody.

Early Years

Bantu Stephen Biko was born on December 18, 1946, in King William's Town, South Africa, in what is now the Eastern Cape province. Politically active at a young age, Biko was expelled from high school for his activism, and subsequently enrolled at St. Francis College in the Mariannhill area of KwaZulu-Natal. After graduating from St. Francis in 1966, Biko began attending the University of Natal Medical School, where he became active with the National Union of South African Students, a multiracial organization advocating for the improvement of Black citizens' rights.

Co-Founding SASO and the Black People's Convention

In 1968, Biko co-founded the South African Students' Organization, an all-Black student organization focusing on the resistance of apartheid, and subsequently spearheaded the newly started Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa.

Biko became SASO's president in 1969. Three years later, in 1972, he was expelled from the University of Natal due to his political activism. That same year, Biko co-founded another Black activist group, the Black People's Convention, and became the group's leader. This group would become the central organization for the BCM, which continued to gain traction throughout the nation during the 1970s.

Steve Biko
Steve Biko
Photo: Mark Peters/Liaison Agency

In 1973, Biko was banned by the apartheid regime; he was forbidden to write or speak publicly, to talk with media representatives or to speak to more than one person at a time, among other restrictions. As a result, the associations, movements and public statements of SASA members were halted. Working undercover thereafter, Biko created the Zimele Trust Fund to aid political prisoners and their families in the mid-1970s.

Arrests, Death and Legacy

During the late 1970s, Biko was arrested four times and detained for several months at a time. In August 1977, he was arrested and held in Port Elizabeth, located at the southern tip of South Africa. The following month, on September 11, Biko was found naked and shackled several miles away, in Pretoria, South Africa. He died the following day, on September 12, 1977, from a brain hemorrhage—later determined to be the result of injuries he had sustained while in police custody. The news of Biko's death caused national outrage and protests, and he became regarded as an international anti-apartheid icon in South Africa.

The police officers who had held Biko were questioned thereafter, but none were charged with any official crimes. However, two decades after Biko's death, in 1997, five former officers confessed to killing Biko. The officers reportedly filed applications for amnesty to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after investigations implicated them in Biko's death, but amnesty was denied in 1999.

Personal Life

In 1970, Biko married Ntsiki Mashalaba. The couple later had two children together: sons Nkosinathi and Samora. Biko also had two children with Mamphela Ramphele, an active member of the Black Consciousness Movement: daughter Lerato, who was born in 1974 and died of pneumonia at 2 months old, and son Hlumelo, born in 1978. Additionally, Biko had a child with Lorraine Tabane in 1977, a daughter named Motlatsi.


  • Name: Steve Biko
  • Birth Year: 1946
  • Birth date: December 18, 1946
  • Birth City: King William's Town
  • Birth Country: South Africa
  • Gender: Male
  • Best Known For: Steve Biko was an anti-apartheid activist who spearheaded the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa.
  • Industries
    • Civil Rights
    • Politics and Government
    • Law
  • Astrological Sign: Sagittarius
  • Schools
    • University of Natal Medical School
    • St. Francis College
  • Nacionalities
    • South African
  • Death Year: 1977
  • Death date: September 12, 1977
  • Death City: Pretoria
  • Death Country: South Africa

Fact Check

We strive for accuracy and fairness.If you see something that doesn't look right,contact us!


  • Article Title: Steve Biko Biography
  • Author: Biography.com Editors
  • Website Name: The Biography.com website
  • Url: https://www.biography.com/activists/steve-biko
  • Access Date:
  • Publisher: A&E; Television Networks
  • Last Updated: March 11, 2021
  • Original Published Date: April 2, 2014


  • 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 realization 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 most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.
  • You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can't care anyway.