"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."
Social justice organizers also point out that numerous other instances of Black resistance against systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence took place in August, including Nat Turner's Rebellion
, the March on Washington
and the Watts Rebellion
in Los Angeles.
August is also the birth month of Black nationalist leaders
Marcus Garvey and Fred Hampton.
"Fifty years later, groups like 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
Black August is separate from Black History Month
in February, which is a federally recognized celebration that calls on all Americans to reflect on how African-Americans have shaped US history.
Carter G. Woodson, the son of former enslaved people, is largely credited with the February celebration. Frustrated with the absence of Black people from history textbooks, Woodson developed Negro History Week in 1926 in an attempt to write Black people into the nation's history. He believed "the achievements of the Negro properly set forth will crown him as a factor in early human progress and a maker of modern civilization."
In 1976, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month.
Black August, which also came about in the 1970's, specifically honors "political prisoners, freedom fighters, and martyrs of the Black freedom struggle," according to the Center for Constitutional Rights
, a progressive advocacy group.
"Black August is a call for reflection, study, and action to promote Black liberation," Herzing told True Leap Press
Some people are taking this time to learn..
The singer Noname, who launched a book club
last year that highlights works written by authors of color, is among those calling on people to engage with Black August. She wrote on Twitter
, "blk history month is beautiful but unfortunately like all black culture it has been co-opted by neoliberal captialist and we rarely learn about all the contributions black radicals have made in resistance against this settler colonial nation state."
"we don't learn about political prisoners who sacrificed their lives to fight against imperialism/colonialism. many of our revolutionaries are still incarcerated and are treated with specific repression because of their radical politics."
Noname released a list of books on prison reform and Black resistance movements to commemorate the month, including works by George Jackson, Assata Shakur and Octavia Butler.