The scorching summer month of August carries substantial historical significance throughout its 31 days. To African-American’s across the country, this month has been named ‘Black August”, a month long celebration recognizing black people and the various events inspiring change, freedom and revolutionary action. The rich tradition has grown to influence members of the black community to take this time and engage in multiple forms of self-discipline and reflection. August carries the memory of resistance, rebellion, and centuries of struggle. Although Black August has expanded beyond the focus on any singular event, its origins are rooted in the Marin County California Courthouse where on August 7, 1970, Jonathan Jackson was gunned down and killed attempting to liberate political prisoners: William Christmas, James McClain and Ruchell Magee. Jonathan’s older brother and Black Panther, George Jackson, was murdered by prison guards a year later on August 21, 1971 during a prison uprising.
Blacks throughout the prison system founded Black August and honored the fallen soldiers who gave their lives to the struggle. During the month, black prisoners studied the revolutionary works of George Jackson, fasted, suspended the use of drugs and alcohol, and avoided watching TV and listening to the radio. These were honorable sacrifices made to maintain unity, community, political education, and a revolutionary mindset. Today, the celebration of Black August has been adopted by millions outside of the prison walls. For me, it is a time of remembrance, discipline, honor and history. I make more of an effort to think about those who came before me and to keep my mind active. This definitely has been a year of reflection considering the racial injustice that has occurred. I may not participate in fasting, and you’re guaranteed to catch me watching TV, but I do pay homage to the people who gave their lives for me to be sitting where I am today.
I’ve posted important dates below that highlight the universal significance of August in black culture; there is something uniquely divine, powerful, yet tragic about this month.
August 1619 – Arrival of first African Slaves in America
August 21, 1791 – Haitian Revolution
August 21, 1831 – Nat Turner’s Slave Rebellion
August 1850 – Underground Railroad
August 17, 1987 – Birth of Marcus Garvey
August 21, 1945 – Birth of Dedan Gills (My pops)
August 30, 1948 – Birth of Fred Hampton
August 8, 1949 – Birth of Mutulu Shakur
August 28, 1963 – March on Washington
August 1965 – Watts Uprising
August 7, 1970 – Jonathan Jackson Courthouse Rebellion
August 18, 1971 – Capital of Republic of New Afrika attacked by Law Enforcement
August 21, 1971 – Assassination of George Jackson
August 17, 1995 Mumia Abu-Jamal’s scheduled execution stopped by resistance.