Ian McQueen's 2009 paper on the 'Durban Moment' gives some sense of the degree to which the university was a central site for the politics of BC, as well as support for the black trade union movement, in the early 1970s. It is online here.
Between 1970 and 1974, the city of Durban was the scene of intense intellectual exchange and debate between a wide array of progressive political movements, originating from sections of the Churches, the city’s counter-culture scene and New Left inspired campus protest at the University of Natal, and the University of Durban-Westville. This moment of intellectual ferment, whilst spanning the critical Durban Strikes of 1973, saw as well the development and refining of Black Consciousness (BC) This is a draft working paper. Please do not cite or circulate without permission of the author philosophy by black student activists congregated at the University of Natal Medical School and Alan Taylor residence. The so-called ‘Durban Moment,’ involved city-level debates and dialogue that challenged the premises of South African liberalism, and encouraged activists to move away from party politics and engage in the politicisation of black workers. Looming large over the debates in Durban were intellectuals Steve Biko and Richard Turner, whose dialogue and intellectual labour, the paper argues, were key in framing and setting the terms of debate. The paper seeks to draw attention to their close and productive relationship and show how it problematises the historical perception of an acrimonious relationship between BC leaders and white leftist and liberal students, highlighting instead a complex synergy.