This Day in History

Aug. 18, 1977: Steve Biko Arrested

Time Periods: Post-Civil Rights Era: 1975 - 2000
Themes: Laws & Citizen Rights, Racism & Racial Identity, World History/Global Studies

The most potent weapon of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed. — Steve Biko

Stephen Bantu Biko was the first president of South African Student Organisation (SASO), a Black student’s organization that was focused on the resistance against and liberation from apartheid. He was co-founder of the Black Consciousness Movement. In 1973, he was banned by apartheid government. Under the ban, he was restricted to his hometown King William’s Town and could not speak to the public or talk with media representatives. Biko started to work undercover and created the Zimele Trust Fund to aid political prisoners and families.

Steve Biko | Zinn Education Project

Steve Biko.

On Aug. 18, 1977, Biko was arrested at a police roadblock under the Terrorism Act in South Africa.

He was murdered the next month while still in custody.

First paragraph above from South Africa History Online.


“You can blow out a candle, but you can’t blow out a fire. Once the flames begin to catch, the wind will blow it higher.” – Peter Gabriel, Biko

In 2021, Playing for Change produced a video with more than 25 musicians (including Beninese vocalist and activist Angélique Kidjo, Silkroad’s Yo-Yo Ma, and bass legend Meshell Ndegeocello) from seven countries who joined Peter Gabriel for a global rendition of Gabriel’s “Biko,” 40 years after its initial release. Produced by Sebastian Robertson and Mark Johnson. Watch and listen below.