Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

We Know About Black History Month, But Do You Know About "Black August?"

The alternative to Black History Month began in 1979 and recognizes radical thought leaders.

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Panthers march during a “Free Huey” rally in Oakland, California, 1969.
Photo: Stephen Shames

Although February is known as Black History Month, there is an alternative time where our contributions are recognized: Black August. It was devised in 1979 to celebrate the Black Panther Party. In August 1971, Panther George Jackson was killed in a violent uprising in California’s San Quentin State Prison.

His younger brother, Jonathan, was killed a year earlier at Marin County Superior Court in California in an attempt to free inmates. Jackson was a well known activist author and revolutionary who endlessly fought for liberation.

It’s been fifty-one years since his death, but Black August is now known as a monthlong effort to celebrate Black radicals, freedom fighters, revolutionaries and political prisoners.

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“It’s important to do this now because a lot of people who were on the radical scene during that time period, relatives and non-relatives, who are like blood relatives, are entering their golden years,” said Jackson’s nephew, Jonathan, stated.

George Jackson was just 18 years old when he was arrested for robbing a Los Angeles gas station in 1960. He was convicted sentenced to one year to life; Jackson spent the next 10 years at California’s San Quentin and Soledad prisons. Most of that time was in solitary confinement.

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In prison, Jackson began reading works by Vladimir Lenin and Karl Marx, who discussed the dangers of capitalism and the importance of revolution. Founding leaders of the Black Panther Party Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton were also inspired by Marx and Lenin.

Black August has been embraced around the country, especially by various Black Lives Matter chapters. “It’s difficult sometimes for radicals who were not assassinated, per se, to enter into the popular discourse,” he said.

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“George and Jonathan were never victims. They took action, and they were killed taking that action, and sometimes that’s very difficult to understand for people who will accept a political assassination.”