Opposition in South Africa: The Leadership of Z.K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and Stephen Biko

By Tim J. Juckes | Go to book overview

7
The Momentum of the Black Consciousness Message

Biko's attack on white liberals served the Black Consciousness Movement well, but because most black students had no experience of multiracial organizations like the National Union of South African Students, they did not respond to the South African Students' Organization's antiliberal campaign ( Gerhart, 1978). Their experience of Bantu education, and more generally, the racially oppressive society, however, did make them responsive to the positive call for black solidarity and self-assertion.

The leaders of the BCM continually faced the dilemma that had hindered the Africanists during the 1950s, namely to "arouse the most demoralized and politically apathetic members of African society" when the ideologues and activists were drawn mainly from "the ranks of relatively politicized and impatient urban working-class youth" ( Karis & Carter, 1977a, p. 328). Like their predecessors in the PAC, the Black Consciousness leaders were intellectuals, and their program was sometimes more ideological than activist. Decisions taken at the 1972 SASO conference illustrate this emphasis:

The Conference . . . adopted unanimously a report calling for the composition of Black nursery rhymes and children's stories and the development of Black child art. Materials at present presented to Black children inculcated "self-hate and psychological oppression." Also attacked was the pro-White and anti-Black bias of history taught in Black schools. The Conference discussed at length ways of bridging the gulf between the intellectual elite and the people of ordinary Black

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