Donald Woods was the South African newspaper editor and anti-apartheid activist who was forced to flee the country after developing a frendship with Stephen Biko in 1977.
Woods was born in Elliotdale, Transkei in 1933 and was a 5th-generation South African. He originally plan to become a laywer, studying law at Cape Town university but vectored towards journalism and left to work at the paper he would eventually edit, the East London Daily Dispatch with out a degree.
In 1957 he was ran for Parliament on an anti-racial ticket for the Union Federal Party and was defeated in a landslide. After the election, he returned to journalism, and worked in different parts of the world before returning to his old newspaper where he became its editor in 1965, making him the youngest in South African history.
Woods ran the paper liberally, and often critical of the South African government. However, his frendship with Stephen Biko developed when he wrote an article attacking Biko. After reading the article, a black woman, Mamphela Ramphele burst into his office and demanded that he meet Biko before making an judgements on him of which Woods agreed to.
Biko and Woods first met in a converted church in the black township of King William's Town. It was there that Biko expressed his views of non-violence to end apartheid. The end result was a strong friendship between the 2 and Woods realization of South African politics. In 1975 Woods asked Police Minister, James Kruger for a easing of banning orders on Biko, it only result in what would become growing harrassment by the South African government. He was prosecuted 7 times before being banned himself in 1977 when he denounced the authorities after Biko died under police custody (Offical Cause of Death: Hunger Strike; Real Cause: Lesions caused by blows to the head.).
As Woods became under house arrest, he began secretly writing Biko as a tribute to his friend. Working on it by night and hiding it in a sleeve of Winston Churchill speeches while leading his "guards" to believe that all he was doing was playing chess in the day.
After attacks on his family, including an acid covered t-shirt that injured his daughter, Woods and his family fled South Africa on New Year's Eve 1977. Woods escaping secretly across the Telle River into Lesotho with his Biko manuscript. He would later be joined by his wife, Wendy and 5 kids who escaped under the belief that they were spending the New Year with family in the country.
After his escape from South Africa, Woods wrote and lecutred on the situation in South Africa around the world. He was finally allowed to return to South Africa in 1990 and would visit his homeland many times afterward including to attend the wedding of Nkosinathi Biko, Steve's son. He died in 2001 following a long battle with cancer, he was 67. His friendship with Biko and subseqent flight from South Africa are documented in the film Cry Freedom.