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Steve Biko's 70th Birthday: South African anti-apartheid activist died …

Steve Biko died 14 years before his goal of bringing down Apartheid rule in South Africa was achieved in 1991.

The activist and leader of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) has been commemorated with a Google Doodle on his 70th birthday.

He died in police custody aged 30 – arguably the face of the anti-Apartheid movement along with the then-incarcerated Nelson Mandela.

While never a member of the the African National Congress (ANC), Biko was targeted by the South African authorities.

In February 1973,  he was banned from speaking at public gatherings or even talking to more than one person at a time.

Despite this censure, Biko refused to back down and was instrumental in organising the 1976 Soweto student protests. 

The rally in Soweto, a black township near Johannesburg, was mostly made up of high school students who protested being taught in Afrikaans – the language most associated with the Apartheid government.

The authorities brutally put down the protest shooting dead 170 people, mostly children. It was one of the key events that condemned the ruling elite in the eyes of the international community.

Biko was arrested at a road block on August 18  1977. He was stripped naked and placed in manacles and taken to the Security Police headquarters in Port Elizabeth where he was subjected to prolonged torture and beating.

A post-mortem revealed he had died from severe brain damage. During a Truth and Reconciliation hearing after the fall of Apartheid, five former members of the South African security forces admitted to killing the activist.

The men were not prosecuted due to statue of limitations elapsing despite being denied amnesty for their crimes.

More than 15,000 people attended his funeral with many thousands more denied access to the event by South African security police. Reverend Desmond Tutu, then Bishop of Lesotho, presided over the ceremony.

Known for his inspirational speeches and writing, here is just one of his most famous quotes: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

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