Black August: What is it and why you need it
Dear White People cast. Photo: Netflix

What if I told you, there’s a profound, pro-Black tradition that has been around for nearly 50 years that is absolutely beloved and commemorated by a national army of participants, yet most Black people know absolutely nothing about it?

George Jackson

Well, I am telling you, and that event is Black August.

Black August officially became an annual commemoration in 1979, but actually began in the early 1970s as a vehicle for showing support for Black political prisoners. It was inspired by the assassination of political prisoner George Jackson who was murdered by prison guards at San Quentin State Prison, Aug. 21, 1971. In response, incarcerated brothers started the tradition of dedicating the month of August to fasting and focusing their reading on the plights, struggles and victories of Blacks and other oppressed people globally.

From there, those outside prison walls began participating, expanding the annual experience to include many community building and empowerment activities, including the annual National Night Out For Safety & Liberation (started by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights), book club discussions, block parties, art events, film festivals and community service activities.

Assata Shakur

“Black August organically manifested from California prisons in the 1970s by Black freedom fighters who sought to honor the lives and genuinely acknowledge the martyrdom and sacrifice of Black political prisoners killed by the state,” said Sedrick Keeler, host of KPFT’s “Conscious Mindset. “This August especially is a time to reflect and learn about the legacies of Black revolutionaries, while we simultaneously reinvest to eradicate white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism and imperialism.”

“During Black August we commemorate the deaths of Jonathan P. Jackson and his brother George Jackson,” said NBUF officer Krista Davenport Madzimoyo. “We recognize the birthday of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. We recognize the beginning of the Haitian Revolution and a number of significant events in Black History. We write our Political Prisoners to let them know we will not leave them on the battlefield and most importantly we organize for their freedom.”

Here are some of the Black History events that fell in August:

Aug 20, 1619First acknowledged Africans arrive in North America.
Aug 14, 1791Haitian Revolution, the largest successful rebellion by enslaved people in the Western Hemisphere, begins and ends in 1804 with Haiti declaring independence from France and ending slavery there.
Aug 30, 1800Gabriel Prosser’s Rebellion
Aug 21, 1831Nat Turner’s Rebellion
Aug 21-22, 1850Abolitionist Frederick Douglass chairs the Fugitive Slave Law Convention in opposition to the Fugitive Slave Law that legalized the capture of escaped enslaved people in every state.
Aug 17, 1887Marcus Garvey, the race leader who founded the largest pan-African organization in history, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, is born. The UNIA had 996 chapters in 44 countries, on six continents with over six million members.
Aug 23, 1917Camp Logan Rebellion, Houston, TX
Aug 30, 1948Fred Hampton, chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, is born.
Aug 28, 1955Emmett Till (14) is kidnapped, tortured and murdered.
Aug 28, 1963March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dr. Martin Luther Kings Jr. delivers what comes to be known as his “I Have a Dream” speech.
Aug 11, 1965Watts Rebellion
Aug 21, 1971Revolutionary George Jackson murdered by guards at San Quentin State Prison.
Aug 15, 1975Joan Little becomes first woman acquitted for murdering a white jailer who attempted to rape her.
Aug 28, 2005Hurricane Katrina hits landfall.
Aug 28, 2008Senator Barack Obama delivers acceptance speech as Democrat’s nominee for president.
Aug 9, 2014Ferguson Uprising begins with the murder of Michael Brown by police.