1973 – Victor Jara is killed

Poet, playwright, singer, songwriter and teacher, Chilean Victor Jara is best known for his theatre direction and political activism. He was a prominent figure in the Nueva Canción Chilena, an artists’ movement that led to a creative renaissance in Chile.

However, shortly after the US government-backed revolution that ousted Salvador Allende’s government in 1973, he was arrested by forces loyal to Pinochet. After being tortured and shot as close range with machine guns. His body was dumped in a shanty town outside Santiago.

The circumstances of his death and the content of his artistic works helped to make Victor Jara a martyr to the cause in independence in South America and around the world.

Referenced in:

Washington Bullets – The Clash
Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto – Sweet Honey in the Rock

1977 – Steve Biko dies in prison

Steve Biko was born in King William’s Town, south Africa in 1946. He went to the University of Natal, where he studied medicine. While he was studying, he became involved in various political causes. By the late sixties, he was head of the Black Consciousness Movement, a grassroots anti-apartheid movment.

Biko and the BCM played a significant role in organising the series of protests which culminated in the Soweto Uprising of 16 June, 1976. In the aftermath of the uprising, which was crushed by heavily armed police shooting school children protesting, the authorities began to target Biko further.

On the 21st of August, 1977, he was arrested at a roadblock. He was assaulted while in custody, and suffered severe injuries. On the 11th of September, he was driven, naked in the back of a police vehicle and still badly injured, for 1500 miles to Pretoria prison. He was declared dead shortly his arrival there, which the police claimed was due to a hunger strike.

Biko became a martyr of the anti-apartheid movement, and in a more general sense, of oppressed peoples everywhere.

Referenced in:

Biko – Peter Gabriel
I’m a African – Dead Prez
Biko Drum – Christy Moore
Mal Sacate – Kris Kristofferson
Biko – Sweet Honey in the Rock
Biko’s Kindred Lament – Steel Pulse
Tribute To Steve Biko – Tapper Zukie
A Motor Bike In Afrika – Peter Hammill
The Death of Stephen Biko – Tom Paxton
Chile Your Waters Run Red Through Soweto – Sweet Honey in the Rock