During the 1970s, the national headquarters of the South African Students Organisation (SASO), and offices of the Black Community Programmes (BCP) were housed in a cluster of buildings on this site, owned by the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa. Under the leadership of Bantu Stephen Biko in 1968, black students broke away from the multi-racial National Union of South African Students (NUSAS) and formed SASO, as a radical national body for activists in racially and ethnically segregated university campuses reserved for black students under apartheid law, referred to as “bush colleges” by the students. Working from these offices, Steve Biko, Barney Pityana and other SASO leaders developed and promoted the ideology of Black Consciousness, marking the defiant resurgence of overt, revolutionary political activity since the Sharpeville massacre, bannings of the ANC and PAC, and the countrywide arrests and bannings of activists. The increased radicalisation of students resulted in strikes at all the “bush colleges” in 1972 and 1973, while SASO mobilised the formation of a new political organisation, the Black People’s Convention (BPC), in July 1972. In retaliation, on 26 February 1973 the apartheid government banned the leaders of SASO and BPC. Steve Biko was banished to King Williams Town, while increased state repression saw ongoing expulsions, bannings, arrests, detentions and torture of hundreds of student activists. Over the following years thousands fled into exile. On 19 October 1977, SASO, BPC and allied Black Consciousness organisations were banned and their leaders arrested following widespread national unrest and international outcry over the torture and death in detention of Steve Biko five weeks earlier.
United Congregational Church of South Africa, Beatrice Street
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent their first missionaries to the British colony of Natal in 1835 to work among the African people of this region. Their mission stations at Amanzimtoti and Groutville were established in 1836 and named after two missionaries, Dr Newton Adams and Dr Aldin Grout. The early missionaries were not only interested in founding new churches. From the start, they fought for the rights of the indigenous peoples and established educational institutions. Many future leaders of the South African liberation struggle came from families who lived on these missions, or were educated at Adams College. During the first 150 years of their work in southern Africa, the American Board, London Missionary Society and churches of the Congregational Union of South Africa worked closely together and had a very clear stance against racism and the evil system of apartheid.