Steve Biko Was Born on This Day in 1946… And Denzel Washington Would ‘Cry Freedom’ 41 Years Later

Steve Biko

Steve Biko

Today in history… December 18th, 1946, South African anti-apartheid activist and black student leader Steve Biko was born in King William’s Town, in the present-day Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

He would’ve been a young 70 years old today.

After years as a leader in the anti-apartheid movement, inspirational writings and empowering activism, he would die at the very young age of 30 (just over a month before his 31st birthday), assassinated while in police custody – a death that would trigger international outrage, and make him a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement.

A decade after his death, in 1987, Richard Attenborough would direct the movie “Cry Freedom,” a biographical drama about Biko, starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline.

The film, while certainly well-intentioned, was essentially a Hollywood white-washing of the Apartheid-set story (business as usual unfortunately). But it’s a start for the uninitiated; and your options are severely limited when it comes to filmed accounts of Biko’s life and struggle (since this is a film blog). For his efforts, Denzel was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. He didn’t win however.

Also worth noting, in 1980, Peter Gabriel told the Steve Biko story in the track titled “Biko,” from his album, “Peter Gabriel.”

In memoriam, first, watch a rare televised interview with Steve Biko from German TV, sharing his views on creating a non-racial egalitarian society; second, watch the music video for Peter Gabriel’s “Biko”; and finally, watch the trailer for “Cry Freedom” underneath (the movie is available on various home video platforms):

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