In 1926, Dr. Carter G. Woodson christened the second week in February “Negro History Week”. Dr. Woodson chose the second week in February because two men he considered influential to Black Americans, Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, were born during that week. From there, Negro History Week has expanded and grown into Black History Month. And every year in February, most of America recognizes Black history by studying and honoring the scholars, leaders, innovators and activists that have shaped the very course of the history of Africans in America.
While I appreciate Black History Month, I agree with many others that the Month of August has seen some of the biggest moments in Black history.
August 30, 1800, Gabriel Prosser made a valiant attempt at leading a slave rebellion. In 1831, Nat Turner rocked the by leading a slave revolt that planted seeds of fear all through the South. August 1843 Henry Highland Garnett called for a slave strike in his “Call to Rebellion” speech delivered to the National Negro Convention. In 1856, John Brown led a 21 man raid at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, preparing to arm slaves against their masters.
The Allensworth Township for former slaves was established in August 1908 as a place where discrimination could not disrupt daily life. In 1963, we Marched on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and also lost the great W.E.B. Dubois. In 1965, Watts rebelled against the abusive and discriminatory practices of LAPD. It was August of 1967 that the first FBI memos called for the disruption, misdirection and neutralization of Black liberation groups including and especially the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
In August we celebrate the birthdays of Marcus Mosiah Garvey and the great Chairman Fred Hampton. We also mourn the loss of George and Jonathan Jackson , Lil Bobby Hutton and all of Nat Turner’s heirs, those who dedicated their lives and thoughts to shaping the very course of the history of Africans in America.
Yes, February is a month to celebrate our history, our achievements and our accomplishments thus far. But let’s not forget the fighting spirit that suffuses every August day. If February serves as a marker of how far we have come, let August remind us of how far we still have to go. If February is a time of celebration, let August be a time of reflection and quiet contemplation of the price our ancestors paid for freedom.
Happy Black August.