Bantu Stephen Biko (18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977) was a South African anti-apartheid activist, an African nationalist, and an African socialist, he was at the forefront of a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement. His ideas were articulated in a series of articles published under the pseudonym Frank Talk.
He began studying medicine at the University of Natal, where he joined the National Union of South African Students. Opposed to the apartheid system of racial segregation and white-minority rule in South Africa, he was frustrated that NUSAS and other anti-apartheid groups were dominated by white liberals, rather than by the blacks who were most affected by apartheid.
He believed that even when well-intentioned, white liberals failed to comprehend the black experience and often acted in a paternalistic manner. He developed the view that to avoid white domination, black people had to organize independently, he became a leading figure in the creation of the South African Students’ Organisation. Membership was open only to “blacks”, a term that he used in reference not just to Bantu-speaking Africans but to Coloureds and Indians. He was careful to keep his movement independent of white liberals, but opposed anti-white racism and had various white friends and lovers. The white-minority National Party government was supportive.
He developed Black Consciousness as SASO’s official ideology. The movement campaigned for an end to apartheid and the transition of South Africa toward universal suffrage and a socialist economy. It organized Black Community Programs and focused on the psychological empowerment of black people. He believed that black people needed to rid themselves of any sense of racial inferiority, an idea he expressed by popularizing the slogan “black is beautiful”. He was involved in founding the Black People’s Convention to promote Black Consciousness ideas among the wider population. The government came to see him as a subversive threat and placed him under a banning order. He helped organize BCPs such as a healthcare center and a crèche in the Ginsberg area.