Established in California during the early 1970s, Black August is acknowledged annually commemorating the legacy of Black resistance in America. Activists commemorate the occasion to study and reflect on prior accomplishments, and also with various events shedding light on police terrorism, systemic racism and “political prisoners, freedom fighters, and martyrs of the Black freedom struggle,” noted the Center for Constitutional Rights.
“During Black August, we honor Black freedom fighters, many of whom were killed by the state or imprisoned for defending Black lives,” stated Monifa Bandele, the Movement for Black Lives, in a statement.
Initiated by the killings of brothers Jonathan and George Jackson, Black August is a time to reflect on the African liberation struggle in the U.S.
George was incarcerated in 1960 for allegedly robbing a Los Angeles gas station for $70 and sentenced to 1 year-life. He became revolutionized and in 1970 he and two Black Panther comrades, Fleeta Drumgo and John Cutchette, were charged with murdering John Mills, a Caucasian prison guard. They became known as the “Soledad Brothers.”
On Aug. 7, 1970, 17-years-young Jonathan brandished a firearm at the Marion County Courthouse and kidnapped Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, demanding the release of his brother. During the subsequent getaway Jackson, Haley, three guards and two other inmates were killed.
George was assassinated on Aug. 21, 1971, by guards during a rebellion at San Quentin State Prison. Approximately 1,500 mourners paid their respects during memorial services at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in Oakland, days later.
“This month is a time to reflect and learn about the legacies of Black revolutionaries, while we rededicate ourselves to the protracted struggles against white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism. We study, plan, and pledge to continue the work and fight for Black liberation.
“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.”
August also marks Nat Turner’s Rebellion and the Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles.
“Fifty years later, groups like the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and New Afrikan Independence Movement continue the Black August legacy of celebrations by amplifying our history of resistance and creating spaces for Black people to come together in community to recharge the revolution,” the Movement for Black Lives notes on its website.