Steve Biko – The Father of Black Consciousness

Steve Biko and Black Consciousness

The term “Black Consciousness” is one that is prevalent among men and women that travel in Afrocentric circles.

But what is Black Consciousness and the Black Consciousness Movement? Where did the term come from? And what does the term mean for today’s Black Women and Men?

Table of Contents


The Definition of Black Consciousness

The term “Black Consciousness” was first used by the legendary Pan-African and anti-apartheid leader Stephen Biko in 1971.

Biko, inspired by the ideas of Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Frantz Fanon, Amilcar Cabral, and the Black Panther Party, outlined plans for a new ideology that gave birth to the Black Consciousness Movement.

“Black Consciousness is in essence the realization by the black man of the need to rally together with his brothers around the cause of their oppression” – Stephen Biko

In the words of Biko “[Black Consciousness] seeks to demonstrate the lie that Black is an aberration from the ‘normal’ which is white. We have defined Blacks as those who are by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group in society and identifying themselves as a unit in the struggle towards the realization of their aspirations.”

In other words, being Black is not a matter of pigmentation – being Black is a reflection of mental attitude.

The Migration of the Black Conscious Community

It is no surprise that South Africa’s anti-Black establishment wasn’t feeling Biko’s message, and wanted the movement brought to a halt before it spread amongst the ignorant and unconscious masses.


Between 1973 and 1974, 90 SASO activists were either banned from the country or arrested without trial. Most were tortured, and Biko himself was killed while in police custody after being held without due process of law for 164 days.

But instead of crushing Biko’s movement, several smaller movements that carried Black Conscious principles sprang up.

20,000 people gather for the funeral of Steve Biko
20,000 people gather for the funeral of Steve Biko

These Black organizations included the Congress of South African Students (COSAS), the Azanian Student Organization (AZASO) and the Port Elizabeth Black Civic Organization (PEBCO).

Beyond Africa, the Black Consciousness Media Workers Associations in London and the U.S. also spread Biko’s message.

Black scholars and contemporary heroes like Nelson Mandela, Assata Shakur, Kaba Hiawatha Kamene (Dr. Booker T. Coleman), and Dr. Chancellor Williams coupled with the dawn of the information age (self-publishing, Internet based radio, and information sharing portals) have revived and spread Black Consciousness.

The Importance of Black Consciousness Today

Today, more Black Men and Women are re-learning what was forgotten about our race, our history, and our belief systems prior to the intervention of alien races.

Biko saw the struggle to restore African consciousness as having two stages:

  • Psychological liberation, and
  • Physical liberation

Biko believed that before there can be a United Black anything, Blacks must first be psychologically liberated, and only then could we be physically liberated.


Specifically, there are two forms of psychological bondage that that Blacks specifically face:

Psychological Misorientation

Psychological Misorientation prevents psychological liberation, and describes the whitewashing of the Black mind.

Specifically, psychological misorientation is a mental condition in which any African proceeds from or negotiates the environment with a conceptual base in which African-centered psychological and behavioral elements are not the operative ones.

An African so afflicted manifests an orientation to reality that does not promote the maintenance of his or her race, but instead promotes the maintenance of the non-African group.

Examples of psychological mis-orientation include adopting any religion not of African origin, preferring sexual partners, cultures, and/or philosophies of races other than the African race, and accepting the philosophical stances of alien races over that of one’s own African race.


Mentacide is a process that depletes the African mind of its self awareness and leads to mis-orientation by alienating the African from his or her correct orientation.

Mentacide and other essay
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Mentacide and other essay
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 220 Pages - 02/17/2016 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

The process was broken down later by Dr. Baruti in his book Mentacide. He also breaks down the concept in the video below.

Examples of Mentacide include a “whitewashing” of the history taught to students and adults of African origin, the suppression or alteration of Black culture in favor of the culture of other races, or the negative portrayal of the Black race so as to propagate those negative characteristics (i.e. telling blacks they are inferior, hyper-sexualized, or of lower intelligence than other races in hopes that they will believe and spread the idea).

Black Consciousness is a way to correct both psychological mis-orientation and Mentacide.

By coming to sites like this one, joining movements that promote knowledge of self and learning Black history based on primary research, you are living the ideals of Black Consciousness.

And waking up to the truth of your blood inheritance.

Together, we can re-awaken the sleeping giant that is our race!

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