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A brief history of Black August

AUTODIDACT 17 | 8/14/2014, 4:55 p.m.

For the past four-and-a-half decades, the self-defining, uncompromising efforts of a few freedom fighters from the Black Liberation struggle have been recognized each August by the many who acknowledge those deeds. Although the sacrifices of physical freedom and life, plus the blood that has been shed, can never be properly compensated, this recognition is a way some give back.

Black August originated in California’s concentration camps to honor fallen freedom fighters William Christmas, Khatari Gaulden, Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson, James McClain and lone survivor Ruchell Magee.

Aug. 7, 1970, heavily armed 17-years-young Jonathan singlehandedly burst into a Marin County California courthouse and announced, “Freeze! We’re taking over!” while tossing guns to Christmas, Magee and McClain, as he attempted to liberate the three imprisoned Black Liberation comrades. Magee has remained incarcerated ever since, most of the time in solitary confinement.

San Quentin prison guards assassinated George Jackson during a Black prison rebellion Aug. 21, 1971. Three prison guards were also killed during that rebellion, and prison officials charged six Black and Latino prisoners with their deaths.

After George Jackson’s murder, Gaulden, a prominent Black Guerilla Family leader, became a leading force in the formation of Black August. He was eventually murdered at San Quentin Prison in 1978.

By the late 1970s, the observance and practice of Black August had spread throughout the country. Those who participated in the collective founding of Black August wore black armbands on their left arm, studied revolutionary literature, focused on the works of George Jackson and shied away from entertainment during August. Additionally, they fasted from sun-up to sundown.

During Black August, emphasis is placed on discipline and study; for it is a time to embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical training and resistance.

“It all falls into place. I see the whole thing much clearer now, how fascism has taken possession of this country, the interlocking dictatorships from county level on up to the Grand Dragon in Washington, D.C. … Fascism has temporarily succeeded under the guise of reform.”—George Jackson.

“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 Jackson.

Free all political prisoners!