Steve Biko Quotes From The Freedom Fighter

Clifton Sankofa

Explore the world of Black Consciousness with our Steve Biko quotes. 

Steve Biko was a man who took his destiny into his own hands.

He passionately fought to end apartheid practices in South Africa

Learn more about this hero and freedom fighter with our Steve Biko quotes.

Who was Steve Biko?

Steve Biko was an anti-apartheid activist, organizer, revolutionary, and writer. 

He served at the forefront of the Black Consciousness Movement.

The Black Consciousness movement was a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign. 

The South African government silenced Biko, so he had to write under the pseudonym Frank Talk.

Here are some of Steve Biko’s impactful books

  • I Write What I Like
  • The Testimony of Steve Biko
  • Black Consciousness In South Africa

Steve Biko’s Fight For Equality

I was raised during the 1990s, an era when the resurgence of African-American consciousness was at an all-time high. 

In many ways, the 1990s represented a mini Black Renaissance in America. 

While my community felt inspired by Spike Lee’s movies, Public Enemy’s music, and Toni Morrison’s writings, a similar energy overtook South Africa. 

South Africa and Black America have much in common. 

I was introduced to the life of Steve Biko as a child. 

Even though he was an ocean away and lived during another time on another continent, he was a big deal to many of us. 

His example lit the fire started by heroes from the past. 

It was impossible to learn about the struggle for freedom in South Africa and the legacy of Nelson Mandela without the life of Steve Biko. 

The pen is mightier than the sword

In 1839, Edward Bulwer-Lytton released his play Cardinal Richelieu.

The famous adage, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” was first uttered in this play. 

Since then, governments, critics, writers, and common people have looked at writers differently.

Writers have the power to change the world by impacting the collective consciousness of planet Earth. 

This is why totalitarian structures like South Africa’s apartheid system banned Biko from writing.

The racist apartheid government was so afraid of how his truth and knowledge would impact others that they banned him.

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He could not write, publish, or release material related to Black Consciousness or equality.

These bans did not stop Steve.

He published his work under the pseudonym Frank Talk and sparked the minds of millions of passionate freedom fighters. 

To learn more, check out our Steve Biko quotes below. 

Short Steve Biko quotes about holding on to cultural identity

Steve Biko inspired millions of Africans and African diasporans to love themselves enough to be themselves. 

1. “I’m going to be me as I am.” — Steve Biko

2. “They want to do things for themselves and all by themselves.” — Steve Biko

3. “If you want to say something radical, you should dress conservative.” — Steve Biko

4. “A people without a positive history is like a vehicle without an engine.” — Steve Biko

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

The top Steve Biko quotes describing Blackness

Blackness is a special part of a person’s soul that is often hard to put into words. 

Steven Biko was a master at describing Blackness. 

6. “Black is beautiful.” — Steve Biko

7. “The blacks are tired of standing at the touchlines to witness a game that they should be playing.” — Steve Biko

8. “Being black is not a matter of pigmentation; being black is a reflection of a mental attitude.” — Steve Biko

9. “Merely by describing yourself as Black, you have started on a road towards emancipation.” — Steve Biko

10. “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.” — Steve Biko

Famous Steve Biko quotes about the struggle for freedom and the power of women

Biko passionately taught that if people want freedom, they must support women and be disciplined to struggle. 

11. “A struggle without casualties is no struggle.” — Steve Biko

12. “Women must be at the forefront to develop a whole new ethos of human co-existence.” — Steve Biko

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13. “It is better to die for an idea that will live than to live for an idea that will die.” — Steve Biko 

14. “You can beat me or jail me or even kill me, but I’m not going to be what you want me to be.” — Steve Biko

15. “Women must be at the forefront of nation-building to bring the South African citizenry together.” — Steve Biko 

Steve Biko quotes and sayings about true equality

Here, Biko breaks down what would have to happen for our world to experience authentic equality. 

16. “Whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior.” — Steve Biko

17. “Same with Blacks; they must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior.” — Steve Biko

18. “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.” — Steve Biko

19. “You have committed yourself to fight against all forces that seek to use your blackness as a stamp that marks you out as a subservient being.” — Steve Biko

20. “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.” — Steve Biko

The best Steve Biko quotes about reclaiming identity

We close our list with these inspirational Steve Biko quotes about identity. 

21. “You are either alive and proud, or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can’t care anyway.” — Steve Biko

22. “The first step, therefore, is to make the black man come to himself; to pump back life into his empty shell.” — Steve Biko

23. “We do not want to be reminded that it is we, the indigenous people, who are poor and exploited in the land of our birth.” — Steve Biko

24. “It becomes more necessary to see the truth as it is if you realize that the only vehicle for change are these people who have lost their personality.” — Steve Biko

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25. “These are concepts which the Black Consciousness approach wishes to eradicate from the black man’s mind before our society is driven to chaos by irresponsible people from Coca-cola and hamburger cultural backgrounds.” — Steve Biko

Heroes and sheroes are everywhere; you just have to look

There is no shame in being inspired by an athlete, musician, actor, or social media icon. 

However, history is full of figures like Steve Biko, who fought tooth and nail to improve the quality of life for everyone on Earth.

What are you working to improve?

We would love to know what inspires you; tell us about it in the comments below. 

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Clifton Sankofa
Clifton Sankofa has Master's degrees in English, Teaching, and School Leadership. He is a veteran educator and school leader. Clifton has built his career around teaching language arts, social-emotional learning, hip-hop(e), and vegan cooking. Across the country, Black and Brown communities die over preventable diseases. Clifton's aim is to help reverse this trend through cultural shifts. Using hip-hop and cultural-centered activities, he educates young people on how to reclaim their health and heritage through sustainable vegan eating, cooking practices, and literacy skills.
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