I’ve spent my whole life learning, living, and being black history. Every year, I’ve celebrated black history month. I’ve loved it, I’ve loathed it for a myriad of reasons. As I’ve gone throughout my 26 years of life in black history, only recently have I learned about Black August. What is Black August? Black August is a celebration of revolution. Black August is a recognition of the fight for Black liberation. It is the month that signifies the height of Black movements. It also happens to be my birth month. Black August is in the honor of so many revolutions that occurred and occur in that month, and a remembrance of one in particular. What Is Black August? We’re going to dive into the revolutionary month, and learn why it must be celebrated more often, as it is the new vanguard in Black liberation, history and American history.
“During Black August, we honor Black freedom fighters, many of whom were killed by the state or imprisoned for defending Black lives,” Monifa Bandele
How It all started
Black August is a celebration 51 years in the making. It all started as a prison riot in one of the most famous prisons in the US. It all started, with one man, George Jackson. Jackson had been serving a one year to life prison sentence in a California Prison. He had allegedly stole $70 from a gas station, resulting in his sentence. When in captivity, he studied Karl Marx as well as Vladimir Lenin which caused him to transform into a revolutionary inside of prison. With his newfound Knowledge, Jackson wrote letters to his family members, and activist Angela Davis along with many others. The letters gave him a prominent voice in the fight for social justice.
In 1970, Jackson’s younger brother was murdered in an attempt to take hostage an California judge and sway him to release Jackson. That same year Jackson and two others were convicted of killing a corrections officer who was white. Then on August 21st, 1971, Jackson was reported to have been slipped a handgun by his lawyer who came to visit him. It was then that Jackson utilized the weapon to capture a prison guard and force them to open up roughly twelve cells according to the LA Times. The chaos that ensued resulted in the death of Jackson and a few other Inmates as they attempted to escape from Prison. Three guards died in the scuffle.
After the event, a group of incarcerated folks came together to commemorate the death of Jackson in what became known as Black August. Black August became a month of reflection, and for incarcerated people to study and strengthen their struggles while imprisoned.
“During the month, people wouldn’t use radios or television, would fast between sun up and sun down, and practice other measures of self-discipline. Eventually the commemorations during that month were taken up outside of prisons, too.”
Rachel Herzing interview, True Leap Press.
How its going.
Black August isn’t a just a celebration of George Jackson’s prison break. It is also a host to a plethora of various different historic black rebellion events. Such events include Nat Turner’s Rebellion, The March on Washington, and the Watts Rebellion after the Rodney King beating. It also is the month of the birthdays of Marcus Garvey and Fred Hampton, a couple of infamous black revolutionaries.
Black August is a moment to recharge in the fight for black liberation. It is almost a sacred ground for celebration of rebellion and revolution. With so many famous rebellions occurring in this month, it is a moment of reflection and recollection in the fight for black liberation. It is a time to study, learn, educate, and support all that is black in the fight for justice.
Black August is different from Black History Month
Black August is different from Black History Month, and we should do well to differentiate the two. According to and article by Harmeet Kur of CNN, Black august is a time for “political prisoners, freedom fighters, and martyrs of the Black freedom struggle.”- Center for Constitutional Rights, a progressive advocacy group. Black History Month differs as it is a month commemorating Black History. a month to honor all black people throughout history and their commitments to furthering human progression. The two differ in the fact that Black August commemorates and remembers the black folk that are often forgotten in Black History as their work is of revolutionaries demonized by societal and systematic oppression.
As Black history continues on, may we remember the revolutionary power of Black august and it’s significance in not only black history, but American History as well.