Revolutionary Steve Biko Quotes, Anti-apartheid movement’s first Icon

In this post, I’ve compiled some of the most memorable Steve Biko quotes.

Bantu Stephen  Biko, popularly known as Steve Biko, was born on December 18, 1946 and died on September 12, 1977. He was an anti-apartheid activist from South Africa. He was an African nationalist and  socialist, and he was in the vanguard of the Black Consciousness Movement, a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign in the late 1960s and early 1970s. 

Biko was raised in Ginsberg township, Eastern Cape, in an impoverished Xhosa household. He began studying medicine at the University of Natal in 1966, where he became a member of the National Union of South African Students (NUSAS). 

Biko was a strong opponent of South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation and white minority rule, and he was dissatisfied that NUSAS and other anti-apartheid organizations were headed by white liberals rather than the blacks who were most affected by apartheid.

Biko argued that white liberals lacked understanding of the black experience and frequently acted paternally. He came to believe that black people needed to organize independently to combat white dominance, and he played a key role in the founding of the South African Students’ Organisation (SASO) in 1968. He took care to keep his movement separate from white liberals.

Biko is regarded as the “Father” of the Black Consciousness Movement and the first anti-apartheid icon. Nelson Mandela referred to him as “the spark that lit a veld fire across South Africa,” and said the Nationalist government “had to assassinate him to extend the existence of apartheid.”

25 Steve Biko Quotes

  1. “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

2. “Black man, you are on your own.”

3. “In a bid for change, we have to take off our coats, be prepared to lose our comfort and security, our jobs and positions of prestige, and our families… A struggle without casualties is no struggle.”

4. “The revolutionary sees his task as liberation not only of the oppressed but also of the oppressor. Happiness can never truly exist in a state of tension.”

5. “I would describe and I have described myself to people who ask as a freedom fighter.”

6. “It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die.”

7. “You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.”

8. “It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die.”

9. “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation – being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.”

10. “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.”

steve biko quotes

11. “Change the way people think and things will never be the same.”

12. “A people without a positive history is like a vehicle without an engine.”

13. “I would like to remind the black ministry, and indeed all black people, that God is not in the habit of coming down from heaven to solve people’s problems on earth.”

14. “Apartheid – both petty and grand – is obviously evil. Nothing can justify the arrogant assumption that a clique of foreigners has the right to decide on the lives of a majority.”

15. “The black man has become a shell, a shadow of man, completely defeated, drowning in his own misery, a slave, an ox bearing the yoke of oppression with sheepish timidity.”

16. “I’ve devoted my life to see equality for blacks, and at the same time, I’ve denied the needs of my family. Please understand that I take these actions, not out of selfishness or arrogance, but to preserve a South Africa worth living in for blacks and whites.”

17. “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.”

18. “I’m going to be me as I am, and you can beat me or jail me or even kill me, but I’m not going to be what you want me to be.”

19. “The power of a movement lies in the fact that it can indeed change the habits of people. This change is not the result of force but of dedication, of moral persuasion.”

20. “A Black man should be more independent and depend on himself for his freedom and not to take it for granted that someone would lead him to it. The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing. They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves.”

21. “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.”

22. “This is white man’s integration, an integration based on exploitative values.”

23. “The wealth of the country must eventually be enjoyed by people of the country.”

24. “I think the central theme about black society is that it has got elements of a defeated society.”

25. “If one is free at heart, no man-made chains can bind one to servitude.”

My favorite Steve Biko quotes are, “The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” and “Change the way people think and things will never be the same.”

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