Updated: Dec 31, 2020
People gather for the funeral of George Jackson in Oakland, California, in 1971. Courtesy of CNN
The prison industrial complex is known to collect Black bodies as if they were collectibles that you place on a fireplace mantel. The mass incarceration of Black people, the oppression and militarized police brutality, and the bluntness of discrimination and white supremacy only intensified the Black Lives Matter movement. Simultaneously, with the Civil Rights movement and the Black Panther Party movement, Black women were disappointed with the gap between the movements and feminism. Therefore, we honor Black August as a moment to study history in a time of collective grief and collective rage and rebellion.
During the wake of the Black Panther movement in the late 60s to the early 80s, there were radical freedom fighters who exchanged their freedom for the liberation of Black people. Most of these outspoken freedom fighters found themselves arrested and charged for crimes they didn’t commit or petty crimes that were used against them to silence their voices. They ultimately became political prisoners of the United States of America.
The Significance Of Black August
Black August began in the 1970s as a symbolic stamp in American history to memorialize the assassination of the imprisoned Black Panther, author, and revolutionary George Jackson during a prison rebellion in California in attempts to free the Soledad Brothers. The Soledad brothers went on a hunger strike to protest the killings during the prison rebellion. To observe this month, some will fast from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm. This is a time to pay homage to political prisoners, freedom fighters, and everyone else who sacrificed themselves to free Black people from the struggle.
Black August is a time to study history. Here are some more events that happened during August:
The first Afrikans were brought to Jamestown as slaves in August of 1619.
Underground Railroad was started on August 2, 1850.
The March on Washington occurred in August of 1963.
Gabriel Prosser’s 1800 slave rebellion occurred on August 30.
Nat Turner planned and executed a slave rebellion that commenced on August 21, 1831.
The Watts rebellions were in August of 1965.
On August 18, 1971, the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was raided by Mississippi police and FBI agents.
The Philadelphia police bombed the Black liberation group called The MOVE family on August 8, 1978.
Dr. Mutulu Shakur (political prisoner and prisoner of war) was born.
Pan-Africanist Black Nationalist Leader Marcus Garvey, Maroon Russell Shoatz (political prisoner), and Chicago BPP Chairman Fred Hampton were born in August.
August is also a time of rebirth, W.E.B. Dubois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963.
Two Black Women Freedom Fighters Worth Mentioning
Although the number of Black women who risked their lives for the Black liberation movement cannot fill this page, there are two worth mentioning. Those two women are Elaine Brown and Angela Davis. During the uprising of Black August, is around the same time, Angela Davis joined the Black Panther Party movement and became involved with George Jackson’s case. Davis was charged with aiding the botched escape attempt of the imprisoned Jackson and served roughly 18 months in jail before her acquittal in 1972. Davis continues to be vocal and protest alongside the younger generation.
Elaine Brown was the first and only woman to lead the Black Panther Party in August of 1974 when Huey Newton was forced into exile in Cuba. It was August 1974, and Elaine Brown was taking over as chair of the Black Panther Party, the first and only woman to lead the revolutionary organization. As a result of her leadership, Brown added women to key administrative positions, which angered some of the men.
It was clear that Black women were fighting discrimination from all sides. August helped further solidify what it meant to be a Black woman in the movement, and what it meant to be a Black womanist in the fight for gender equality. As a result, this led to more conversations about the intersectionality of race and gender. This term was coined by Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, a professor at UCLA and founder of the concept of Critical Race Theory.
August is a pivotal month for the Black revolution, and unfortunately, you won’t find this information in the textbooks. This is a month for self-guided learning, a time to remember the freedom fighters who gave their lives in various ways in the name of the Black liberation movement, it’s a time to examine the compounded issues of race and gender.
Settle your quarrels, come together, understand the reality of our situation, understand that fascism is already here, that people are already dying who could be saved, that generations more will live poor butchered half-lives if you fail to act. Do what must be done; discover your humanity and your love in revolution.” ― George L. Jackson