Edited by Azizi Powell
This pancocojams post showcases excerpts from three online articles about the Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa.
The content of this post is presented for historical, socio-cultural, and educational purposes.
I quote online articles and excerpts of online articles to point out those articles to this blog's readers. I encourage you to read these entire articles.
All copyrights remain with their owners.
Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
EXCERPTS ABOUT THE BLACK CONSCIOUSNESS MOVEMENT IN THE NATION OF SOUTH AFRICA
These excerpts are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.
From http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/ideology-black-consciousness-movement The Ideology of the Black Consciousness Movement
"The emergence of the Black Consciousness movement that swept across the country in the 1970s can best be explained in the context of the events from 1960 onwards. After the Sharpeville massacre in 1960, the National Party (NP) government, which was formed in 1947, intensified its repression to curb widespread civil unrest. It did this by passing harsher laws, extending its use of torture, imprisonment and detentions without trial.
By the late 1960s, the government had jailed, banned or exiled the majority of the Liberation Movement’s leaders. In response to this, an intensified wave of tyranny, and a new set of organisations emerged. These organisations filled the vacuum created by the government’s suppression of the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. United loosely around a set of ideas described as “Black Consciousness,” these organisations helped to educate and organise Black people, particularly the youth. In fact, the eruption of the Black Consciousness Movement signalled an end to the quiescence that followed the banning of the black political movements.
The BCM urged a defiant rejection of apartheid, especially among Black workers and the youth. The South African Students Organisation (SASO) - an arm of the movement - was founded by Black students who refused to join NUSAS, another student led organization. At the same time, Black workers began to organise trade unions in defiance of anti-strike laws. In 1973, there were strikes throughout the nation, in cities like Durban. The collapse of Portuguese colonialism and the victories of the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO) in Mozambique, and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in Angola, stimulated further activity against apartheid. This culminated in the Soweto Uprising of 1976.
In 1976, student protests against Bantu education in Soweto, the Johannesburg informal settlement reserved for Africans, led to a two-year uprising that spread to Black townships across the country. The protests encompassed all Black grievances against the apartheid system, and in that period police reportedly killed many protesters, including schoolchildren. Workers then mobilised to protest police killings of innocent demonstrators.
In the following year, boycotts and unrest among students and teachers grew after Steve Biko, a leader of SASO, died in a Pretoria detention cell. He had been detained by the police under the Terrorism Act, and after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in the 1990s, it was revealed that he was tortured and killed by police. Within a month of Biko’s death, the government had detained scores of people and banned 18 Black Consciousness organizations, as well as two newspapers with a wide Black readership.
The Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa is synonymous with its founder, Biko. From the beginning of Biko’s political life until his death, he remains one of the indisputable icons of the Black struggle against apartheid. As leader of the movement, he instilled courage among the masses to fight an unjust system under the banner of Black Consciousness. Defining Black Consciousness is no mean task. However, a broad understanding of the concept can be made from Biko’s speeches and writings, including those of his close friends and other writers."
Last updated : 12-Sep-2016
This article was produced for South African History Online on 20-Mar-2011
From http://www.sahistory.org.za/article/black-consciousness-movement-south-africa The Black Consciousness Movement in South Africa
"The landscape of Black political activity in the 1960s was different that of the previous decade. The apartheid government had banished the Black resistance movements, in particular the ANC and the PAC. Black leaders, who were not imprisoned by the state, fled into exile. A barrage of restrictive legislation effectively silenced Black opposition through bannings, arrests, and the imprisonment of leaders. South Africa's economy grew and benefited White South Africans. For Black South Africans, however, the suffering continued.
Ironically, the seeds of Black resistance in the 1960s could be found at the ‘bush campuses’, like those at the University of the North and Zululand University. These institutions, created under the Extension of the University Education Act, Act 45 of 1959, became the breeding ground of Black resistance that was to become a force in the 1970s. Influenced by the American Black Power movement, the likes of Malcolm X, and closer to home by Frantz Fanon, Kenneth Kaunda, Julius Nyere and Kwame Nkrumah, a new framework of student thinking emerged. In South Africa, it was the late Anthony Lembede's Africanism that was a crucial influence in these universities.
Biko’s ideas became the major rallying point behind a pressure group that became known in South Africa as the BCM. From 17 years of age, up until his death on 12 September 1977, Biko had an illustrious political career spanning about 14 years. He came into the political limelight in 1963, the year that witnessed a rise in the Poqo-led unrest in his home area. Poqo was the armed wing of the PAC, similar to the armed wing of the ANC, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK, or “Spear of the Nation”).
Biko had just entered Lovedale College when his brother was arrested and jailed on suspicion of outlawed Poqo activity. He was interrogated by the police and subsequently expelled. This marked the beginning of Biko’s resentment against white authority. In 1964, he went to Marianhill in Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and attended a private Roman Catholic school, Saint Francis College. Although he found meaning in Christian principles, Biko, who was an articulate young man, resented the influence of whites thought on determining an African’s future.
As an advocate of the Black Consciousness (BC) philosophy - together with other literate Africans residing in the major urban centres - Biko developed into a highly respected intellectual in the 1960s. Biko began his search for self-identity, and hoped to build up the pride of Black culture - a culture that was scornfully viewed by the settler regime. Biko and his student colleagues had been receptive to the political ideas expressed by many Black intellectuals, and learned to use the emotional power of the message of Black Consciousness.
As a result, these ideas and slogans filtered down to a much broader group of socially underprivileged people, who were angry and impatient for meaningful action. This restructured consciousness emerged among students, beginning with those at Fort Hare and later the Durban Medical School (Natal University). These students constituted the new African petty bourgeoisie class."
Last updated : 31-Aug-2017
This article was produced for South African History Online on 10-Jun-2011
Note: This excerpt doesn’t include any content from these two significant sub-sections of this page: "Early years: 1960–76" and “The Soweto uprising and after: 1976–present"
“The Black Consciousness Movement (BCM) was a grassroots anti-Apartheid activist movement that emerged in South Africa in the mid-1960s out of the political vacuum created by the jailing and banning of the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress leadership after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960. The BCM represented a social movement for political consciousness.
The Black Consciousness Movement started to develop during the late 1960s, and was led by Steve Biko, a black medical student, and Barney Pityana. During this period, which overlapped with Apartheid, the ANC had committed to an armed struggle through its military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe, but this small guerrilla army was neither able to seize and hold territory in South Africa nor to win significant concessions through its efforts. The ANC had been banned by Apartheid leaders, and although the famed Freedom Charter remained in circulation in spite of attempts to censor it, for many students, the ANC had disappeared.
The term Black Consciousness stems from American educator W. E. B. Du Bois's evaluation of the double consciousness of American blacks being taught what they feel inside to be lies about the weakness and cowardice of their race. Du Bois echoed Civil War era black nationalist Martin Delany's insistence that black people take pride in their blackness as an important step in their personal liberation. This line of thought was also reflected in the Pan-Africanist, Marcus Garvey, as well as Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain Locke and in the salons of the sisters, Paulette and Jane Nardal in Paris. Biko's understanding of these thinkers was further shaped through the lens of postcolonial thinkers such as Frantz Fanon, Léopold Senghor, and Aimé Césaire. Biko reflects the concern for the existential struggle of the black person as a human being, dignified and proud of his blackness, in spite of the oppression of colonialism. The aim of this global movement of black thinkers was to build black consciousness and African consciousness, which they felt had been suppressed under colonialism.
Part of the insight of the Black Consciousness Movement was in understanding that black liberation would not only come from imagining and fighting for structural political changes, as older movements like the ANC [African National Congress] did, but also from psychological transformation in the minds of black people themselves. This analysis suggested that to take power, black people had to believe in the value of their blackness. That is, if black people believed in democracy, but did not believe in their own value, they would not truly be committed to gaining power.
...along with political action, a major component of the Black Consciousness Movement was its Black Community Programs, which included the organisation of community medical clinics, aiding entrepreneurs, and holding "consciousness" classes and adult education literacy classes.
Another important component of psychological liberation was to embrace blackness by insisting that black people lead movements of black liberation. This meant rejecting the fervent "non-racialism" of the ANC in favour of asking whites to understand and support, but not to take leadership in, the Black Consciousness Movement. A parallel can be seen in the United States, where student leaders of later phases of SNCC, and black nationalists such as Malcolm X, rejected white participation in organisations that intended to build black power. While the ANC viewed white participation in its struggle as part of enacting the non-racial future for which it was fighting, the Black Consciousness view was that even well-intentioned white people often re-enacted the paternalism of the society in which they lived. This view held that in a profoundly racialised society, black people had to first liberate themselves and gain psychological, physical and political power for themselves before "non-racial" organisations could truly be non-racial.
Biko's BCM had much in common with other left-wing African nationalist movements of the time, such as Amílcar Cabral's PAIGC and Huey Newton's Black Panther Party.
Controversies and criticism
Criticisms of the Movement sometimes mirror similar observations of the Black Consciousness Movement in the United States. On one side, it was argued that the Movement would stagnate into black racialism, aggravate racial tensions and attract repression by the apartheid regime. Further, the objective of the Movement was to perpetuate a racial divide – apartheid for the Blacks, equivalent to that which existed under the National Party rule. Other detractors thought the Movement-based heavily on student idealism, but with little grassroots support among the masses, and few consistent links to the mass trade-union movement.
Assessments of the movement note that it failed to achieve several of its key objectives. It did not bring down the apartheid regime, nor did its appeal to other non-white groups as "people of color" gain much traction. Its focus on blackness as the major organising principle was very much downplayed by Nelson Mandela and his successors who to the contrary emphasised the multi-racial balance needed for the post-apartheid nation. The community programs fostered by the movement were very small in scope and were subordinated to the demands of protest and indoctrination. Its leadership and structure was essentially liquidated, and it failed to bridge the tribal gap in any *large-scale* way, although certainly small groups and individuals collaborated across tribes.
After much blood shed and property destroyed, critics charged that the Movement did nothing more than raise "awareness" of some issues, while accomplishing little in the way of sustained mass organisation, or of practical benefit for the masses. Some detractors also assert that Black consciousness ideas are out-dated, hindering the new multi-racial South Africa.
Defenses of the Black Consciousness Movement
Defenders of the BCM by contrast held that charges of impracticality failed to grasp the universal power of an idea – the idea of freedom and liberation for blacks. This was Biko's reply to many of the Movement's critics. Indeed, Biko rejected the "practicality" charge as an example of the compromises that hindered and delayed black liberation, saying in 1977: "We have been successful to the extent that we have diminished the element of fear in the minds of black people."
Defenders of the movement argued that blackness was the best, most energetic organising principle that was available at the time, in contrast to laborious legal, non-violent and petition based integrationist approach used by white dominated moderate groups.
Biko made no bones about the 'consciousness' aspect of the movement and in this limited respect he is similar to Huey P. Newton of the Black Panthers in the United States. What was important to Biko and other leaders, was not creating yet another political party or group squabbling over local spoils, but a fundamental mobilisation and change in attitude and outlook of the black oppressed and destitute. Some contemporary BCM leaders claim that its principles are currently relevant and decry what they see as evidence of 'sellout' in the new South Africa. (See AZAPO reference below).
Black Consciousness in literature
...In comparison with the Black Power movement in the United States, the Black Consciousness movement felt little need to reconstruct any sort of golden cultural heritage. African linguistic and cultural traditions were alive and well in the country. Short stories published predominantly in Drum magazine had led to the 1950s being called the Drum decade, and future Nobel Prize winner Nadine Gordimer was beginning to become active. The fallout from the Sharpeville massacre led to many of those artists entering exile, but the political oppression of the resistance itself led to a new growth of black South African Literature. In the 1970s, Staffrider magazine became the dominant forum for the publication of BC literature, mostly in the form of poetry and short stories. Book clubs, youth associations, and clandestine street-to-street exchange became popular. Various authors explored the Soweto riots in novels, including Miriam Tlali, Mothobi Mutloatse and Mbulelo Mzamane. But the most compelling force in Black Consciousness prose was the short story, now adapted to teach political morals. Mtutuzeli Matshoba famously wrote, "Do not say to me that I am a man." An important theme of Black Consciousness literature was the rediscovery of the ordinary, which can be used to describe the work of Njabulo Ndebele.
However, it was in poetry that the Black Consciousness Movement first found its voice. In a sense, this was a modern update of an old tradition, since several of South Africa's African languages had long traditions of performed poetry.
A main tenet of the Black Consciousness Movement itself was the development of black culture, and thus black literature. The cleavages in South African society were real, and the poets and writers of the BCM saw themselves as spokespersons for blacks in the country. They refused to be beholden to proper grammar and style, searching for black aesthetics and black literary values. The attempt to awaken a black cultural identity was thus inextricably tied up with the development of black literature.”...
Thanks for visiting pancocojams.
Visitor comments are welcome.