Ruby Hoffman's award winning exhibit on South Africa's Steve Biko.
Ruby Hoffman's award winning exhibit on South Africa's Steve Biko.

Ruby Hoffman Exhibit on Steve Biko Captures First Place

March 10, 2023

Huntington freshman Ruby Hoffman is polishing up her first place award winning National History Day individual exhibit project on South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko, who played a key role in helping to bring down a hideous and brutal system of racial segregation in that country.

Huntington High School freshman Ruby Hoffman.

Ms. Hoffman’s exhibit will now vie in the Long Island regional finals of this year’s National History Day initiative. Mr. Biko, who was at the forefront of the Black Consciousness Movement was 30 years old when he died of a brain hemorrhage on September 12, 1977 as a result of a savage beating by five South African policeman while he was being held in custody. He was found stripped of clothing and shackled outside a hospital in Port Elizabeth, 740 miles from where he was taken into custody at a roadblock. He had been held for 533 days without trial.

The Huntington teenager’s project took weeks to research, edit and assemble. It clearly impressed the judges in the individual exhibit category.

“I chose the topic of apartheid in South Africa because I didn’t know much about it and I thought it would be interesting to learn about it,” wrote Ms. Hoffman in a process paper accompanying the exhibit. “I also thought learning about a country I haven’t really studied would be appealing. Steve Biko fighting apartheid in South Africa relates to the theme of Frontiers in History because the Black Consciousness Movement helped to bring awareness of the unfair treatment of Blacks. Although this movement didn’t end apartheid, it was a major factor in bringing it to the attention of people all over the world.”

Ms. Hoffman engaged in dozens of hours of research. “Some of the primary sources I used were quotes, speeches, newspaper accounts, interviews and photographs,” Ms. Hoffman said. “The pictures were helpful because you could interpret them in many different ways. Some of Steve Biko’s quotes helped me see his perspective along with that of a lot of his peers. I used notecards and notes to keep track of how many sources I had, which were primary or secondary ones and what section of the project they were related to.”

The freshman used three plywood boards measuring 2x6 feet and painted each one black. “I used yellow, red and green paper to represent the South African flag,” Ms. Hoffman said. “The Black Consciousness Movement and other groups that Steve Biko belonged to were steps in the right direction that helped to eventually gain equality [of the races] and end apartheid.”

Mr. Hoffman is in the midst of a spectacular freshman year. Her grade average in the second marking period exceeded 101 and she plays on the Blue Devil soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams.