Black history in the United States is heartbreaking, breathtaking, and utterly incredible.
There’s one day in particular that has been incredibly influential.
On Aug. 28 of various years, descendants of the African diaspora have experienced several events that changed the course of history.
From slavery ending to the the road clearing for America’s first black president, black history on Aug. 28 was full of ups and downs that changed culture and policy. Here are five dates to know.
Aug. 28, 1833: Slavery was abolished in the United Kingdom, setting the stage for other nations to do the same.
An anti-slavery movement swept through the British Republic in the late 1700s. In December 1831, what was intended to be a peaceful strike in Jamaica resulted in the Baptist War, an incredibly large slave revolt. The loss of life and property led the British parliament to hold two inquiries that ultimately resulted in the approval of the Slavery Abolition Act on Aug. 28, 1833.
Aug. 28, 1955: Emmett Till was brutally murdered by two white men.
Till, while visiting his uncle in the South, was accused of whistling at a white woman in public. On Aug. 28, 1955, the woman’s husband and his brother kidnapped Till from his uncle’s home, brutally beat him, shot him in the head, tied a cotton gin fan to his neck, and sunk his body in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s mutilated body was found and returned to his mother in Chicago, who held an open-casket funeral “so all the world could see what they did to my boy.”
While the lynchings and murders of innocent black people were commonalities of the United States at the time, the barbaric nature of Till’s death paired with his young age (he was 14) caught the attention of national media and worldwide news. Till’s death, and the acquittal of his killers, is a piece of history representative of the injustices black folks have received at the hands of white Americans, an unfair legal system, and a democracy that historically failed to protect its most vulnerable citizens.
Aug. 28, 1963: Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C.
The profound orator spoke to a crowd of nearly 250,000, calling for an end to intense racism and the beginning of a unified country that would judge one another by the content of their character instead of the color of their skin.
Aug. 28, 2005: Citizens of New Orleans were ordered to evacuate in preparation for Hurricane Katrina.
The hurricane, which struck just east of New Orleans in the early hours of Aug. 28, destroyed homes and businesses across the city, caused $108.5 billion in damage and killed more than 1,500 people. It displaced thousands of residents — mostly black — and shed light on housing and infrastructure inequality rooted in racial and socioeconomic discrimination.
Aug. 28, 2008: Then-Senator Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for president.
He was the first black man to do so, and later, the first African-American hold the presidential office.
The 28th hasn’t been the only important day in black history during August.
James Baldwin, author, poet, and LGBTQ figure, was born on Aug. 2, 1924. On Aug. 9, 1936, Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal at the Summer Olympics in Berlin, and on Aug. 21, 1831, Nat Turner led one of the most well-known and influential slave revolts in the world’s history.
And this August, the world watched as white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan, and Neo-Nazis marched on a college campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. Unlike the marches in the 1950s and 60s, where KKK members wore hoods to hide their faces, these supremacists came out uncloaked — bold and unapologetic in their racist ideologies.
August has been a month of anger, terror, love, and change for black people for hundreds of years.
As a nation founded on the ideals of freedom and equality for all, we have the power to decide what future Aug. 28ths, and the other 30 days of August, will look like.
By choosing action over inaction, love over hate, and solidarity over superiority, we can shape a future that is more fair, tolerant, and inclusive of the very people that have given blood, sweat, and tears to this great — yet flawed — nation.
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