Black August originated in the concentration camps of California to honor fallen Freedom Fighters, Jonathan Jackson, George Jackson, William Christmas, James McClain and Khatari Gaulden. Jonathan Jackson was gunned down outside the Marin County California courthouse on August 7, 1970 as he attempted to liberate three imprisoned Black Liberation Fighters: James McClain, William Christmas and Ruchell Magee.
Ruchell Magee is the sole survivor of that armed rebellion. He is the former co-defendant of Angela Davis and has been locked down for 40 years, most of it in solitary confinement. George Jackson was assassinated by prison guards during a Black prison rebellion at San Quentin on August 21, 1971. Three prison guards were also killed during that rebellion and prison officials charged six Black and Latino prisoners with the death of those guards.
These six brothers became known as the San Quentin Six. To honor these fallen soldiers the brothers who participated in the collective founding of Black August wore black armbands on their left arm and studied revolutionary works, focusing on the works of George Jackson.
In the month of August the brothers did not listen to the radio or watch television. Additionally, they didn’t eat or drink anything from sun-up to sundown; and loud and boastful behavior was not allowed. The brothers did not support the prison’s canteen. The use of drugs and alcoholic beverages was prohibited and the brothers held daily exercises because during Black August emphasis is placed on sacrifice, fortitude and discipline. Black August is a time to embrace the principles of unity, self-sacrifice, political education, physical training and resistance.
The tradition of fasting during Black August teaches self-discipline. A conscious fast is in effect FROM SUNRISE TO SUNSET (or suggested from 6:00 am to 8:00 pm), this includes refraining from drinking water or liquids and eating food of any kind during that period. Some other personal sacrifice can be made as well. The sundown meal is traditionally shared whenever possible among comrades. On August 31, a People’s Feast is held and the fast is broken. Black August fasting should serve as a constant reminder of the conditions our people have faced and still confront. Fasting is uncomfortable at times, but it is helpful to remember all those who have come and gone before us, Ni Nkan Mase, if we stand tall, it is because we stand on the shoulders of many ancestors.
The Spread and Growth of Black August
Black August is a time to STUDY AND PRACTICE EDUCATION AND OUTREACH ABOUT OUR HISTORY AND THE CURRENT CONDITIONS OF OUR PEOPLE. In the late 1970’s Black August was moved from the yards of California’s concentration camps to New Afrikan communities throughout California and the united states empire. As the Black August practice and tradition spread, it grew to observe not only the sacrifices of the brothers in California’s concentration camps, but the sacrifices and struggles of our ancestors against white supremacy, colonialism, and imperialism.
In the late 1970’s the observance and practice of Black August left the prisons of California and began being practiced by Black/New Afrikan revolutionaries throughout the country. Members of the New Afrikan Independence Movement (NAIM) began practicing and spreading Black August during this period. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) inherited knowledge and practice of Black August from its parent organization, the New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO). MXGM through the Black August Hip Hop Project began introducing the Hip-Hop community to Black August in the late 1990’s after being inspired by New Afrikan political exile Nehanda Abiodun.
Brief Historical Outline of “Black August”
A sampling of this month of “righteous rebellion” and “racist repression” includes:
- The first Afrikans were brought to Jamestown as slaves in August of 1619.
- Gabriel Prosser’s slave rebellion occurred on August 30th, 1800.
- The “Prophet” Nat Turner planned and executed a slave rebellion that commenced on August 21, 1831.
- In 1843, Henry Highland Garnett called a general slave strike on August 22.
- The Underground Railroad was started on August 2, 1850.
- The March on Washington occurred in August of 1963
- 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.
- On August 8, 1978 Philadelphia police initiated a shootout against MOVE members
Further, August is a time of birth. Dr. Mutulu Shakur (New Afrikan prisoner of war), Pan-Africanist Leader Marcus Garvey, Maroon Russell Shoatz (political prisoner) and Chicago Black Panther Party Chairman Fred Hampton were born in August. August is also a time of transition and rebirth. The great scholar and educator W.E.B. Dubois died in Ghana on August 27, 1963. So, August is a month during which New Afrikans can reflect on our current situation and our struggle for self-determination and freedom.
The Struggle Continues …!
Recognizing that the Roots of Black August are founded in the Black August Organizing Committee (BAOC), we, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), are respectfully including this organization in the trademark of Black August in solidarity with the history and actions that come from this movement.