Editor’s Note: Today marks the 25th anniversary of American voting rights activist and Fullbright scholar Amy Biehl’s violent death in South Africa. With South Africa already in the news over the past week a recent retrospectives have been issued by Biehl’s alma mater, Stanford University, and weeks earlier in the Los Angeles Times, the latter of which played a major role in publicizing Biehl’s apparent August 25, 1993 demise. The Biehl murder event took place at a decisive moment, as African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela’s presidential bid turned on his portrayal as a “peace candidate.”
Amy Biehl was a young Fulbright scholar in South Africa in 1993. She was murdered 25 years ago, two days before her planned return to the U.S. Four of her killers were found guilty of murder, and then granted amnesty. And her family forgave them. https://t.co/W3D4SfQucv
— Adeel Hassan (@adeelnyt) August 24, 2018
Author and attorney Alison Maynard, a longtime reader and supporter of MHB, examines the unusual circumstances surrounding the death and establishes a case that it was likely a publicity stunt carried out by transnational forces seeking to maneuver the troubled country’s political trajectory toward certain desired ends.-JFT
By Alison Maynard
Saturday, August 25, 2018, will mark the 25thanniversary of the violent murder of American voting rights activist and Fulbright scholar Amy Biehl in South Africa. Amy was a blond, blue-eyed Stanford graduate aged 26 when she was pulled from her car in Guguletu Township outside Cape Town on August 25, 1993. While a mob of 300 black students shouted, “One settler, one bullet!” and “Kill the settler!” hoodlums pulled her from her car, stabbed her in the heart, and bludgeoned her head with a brick. One day after her death, a professor of Amy’s at Stanford, Larry Diamond, pinned blame for the murder on the Pan Africanist Congress, “a relatively small, extremely militant political fringe group in the black community in South Africa … that has been more inclined to commit violence against whites.”
The Los Angeles Times on Sept. 2, 1993, recounted the heart-wrenching personal visit Melanie Jacobs, Amy’s best friend and roommate in South Africa, made on Sept. 1, 1993, to Newport Beach, California, to bring Amy’s ashes to her parents. Melanie was accompanied by her 14-year-old daughter, Solange. It was Melanie who identified Amy’s body after the murder. According to the L.A. Times, Amy—amazingly–climbed into a police vehicle after being mortally injured, and was driven not to the hospital, but to the police station, where she died on the floor. Melanie, summoned to identify the body, recognized Amy by the “clunky black shoes sticking out from under the pink blanket.” She could not bear to look at the face. Melanie herself died tragically from a fall from a balcony in 1998.Amy’s parents, Peter and Linda Biehl, went on after Amy’s murder to form the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust, a charitable organization committed to providing skills training, such as bread-baking and knitting, to impoverished black Africans in South Africa.