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black pride in seventies south africa
on 29 November 2005
This collection of lectures, articles, interviews, letters and trial testimonies was smuggled out of South Africa after Biko's murder in detention in 1977 and published in 1978. Most of it represents his writing in the South African Student Organisation journal - which acted as the theoretical organ of Black Consciousness in South Africa in the 60s and 70s - where his column appeared under the pseudonym 'Frank Talk' and covers
a range of issues. Besides a lucid exposition of the basic philosophy of Black Consciousness, he discusses Bantustans, Bantu education, the institutional church (including the missionaries) and white liberals, demonstrating cogently the role that these had played and were playing in the disempowerment of black people. In the two articles on the Black Consciousness philosphy, 'Black Souls in White Skins' and 'We Blacks', he notes that the first step in addressing the psychological and physical demoralisation and dehumanisation of "the black man" is to make him "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..". From this distance the echoes of Aime Cesare and Fanon are clear as is the predominantly humanist discourse of the earlier pieces: "the envisioned self", "the dictates of the inner soul", "free at heart". The later essays make more explicit the link between capitalist exploitation and poverty on the one hand and racism and black disempowerment on the other. Biko himself, in his role as founder and Branch Executive of BCP (Black Community Programme) worked tirelessly in the battle against black rural poverty. Readers who want to explore the roots and tenets of black consciousness in South Africa will be both enlightened by the clarity of Biko's arguments and impressed by his essential humanity, intelligence and lack of vengefulness against whites. His quarrel is not with whites as people, but with the entrenched mindset of "white racism and "superiority" which whites need to escape. In his last famous and poignant essay 'On Death', written shortly before his death in detention, he confronts - and presages - torture and death fearlessly.