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what is
black august

The Center for Constitutional Rights defined Black August as a time designated to commemorate and honor “the freedom fighters, especially those inside the walls of our sprawling prison-industrial complex, who, with their vision, tenacity, and deep love for our communities, are leading us toward the horizon of abolition.” Originally started in the 1970s by California prisons, Black August is a way to “honor the lives and deaths of Black political prisoners killed by the state, bring awareness to prison conditions, and to honor the radical tradition of Black resistance against anti-Black state violence systemic oppression.”

On August 21, 1971, Black Panther George Jackson was assassinated by a prison guard in San Quentin, California; the details surrounding Jackson’s death remain disputed. A year prior, in August of 1970, the younger brother of George, Jonathan Peter Jackson, died at 17 from gunshot wounds, following what some at the time called the “Courthouse Slave Rebellion,” where Jonathan, along with three others entered the Marin County Courthouse with guns, taking hostages and eventually being involved in a shootout. The death of George Jackson, who had started the San Quentin Prison chapter of the Black Panther Party and was also the author of two books, along with his brother Jonathan has left a lasting mark on the Black Liberation movement and continues to empower and inspire those who know their stories.

August is a significant time for Black people for a number of reasons. In late August, 1619, the first group of enslaved Africans were brought to Virginia. In August of 1833, the Slavery Abolition Act was put in place, abolishing slavery in the majority of British colonies, resulting in more than 800,000 enslaved Africans in the Caribbean, South Africa and Canada becoming free. Op-ed columnist for Teen Vogue Jameelah Nasheed outlined why August 28, in particular, is a significant date in Black history. On August 28, 2008, America’s first Black president, then-Senator Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Party nomination for president. Several decades prior, on August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1955, August 28 was the date that 14-year-old Emmett Till was brutally murdered by a group of white men in Mississippi.

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