Black August is a call for reflection, study, and action to promote Black liberation. Its roots go back to California prisons in the 1970s, during a period of sustained struggle and resistance against racialized violence against Black imprisoned people, especially those calling for Black liberation and challenging state power. Ignited by the deaths of Jonathan and George Jackson in August 1970 and August 1971, and honoring others who gave their lives including Khatari Gualden, William Christmas, and James McClain, a group of imprisoned people came together to develop a means of honoring that sacrifice and promoting Black liberation.
While August is significant because of the deaths of the Jackson brothers, it is also a month with many other significant moments in Black history in the United States including the formation of the Underground Railroad, Nat Turner’s rebellion, the March on Washington, the Haitian Revolution, the Fugitive Slave Law Convention, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the births of Marcus Garvey, Russell Maroon Shoatz, and Fred Hampton to the death of W.E.B du Bois.
So there was an idea that this could be a time that imprisoned people in the California prison system could use for reflection, study, and to think about how to strengthen their struggles. During the month, people wouldn’t use radios or television, would fast between sun up and sundown, and practice other measures of self-discipline.