Activist, ambassador, and professor Dr. Carlos Russell created Black Solidarity Day in 1969. He was inspired by a play written by Douglas Turner Ward, “Day of Absence,” in which Black residents of a fictional Southern town disappear, revealing to the town’s white residents the extent to which their lives depend on Black labor. (Excerpts of the play are available on the National Humanities Center’s website, and the full text of the play may also be found at your local library.)
On Black Solidarity Day, Black and African diasporic people are asked to stay home from work and school, and to not shop or participate in other commercial activities. This day is meant to highlight racial injustices, societal inequities, and to illuminate how Black voices are integral to American life.
This project was envisioned by Jasmine Sykes-Kunk after many of the NYU Libraries staff participated in the #StrikeforBlackLIves #ShutdownAcademia in June 2020. This day of reflection, and learning instead, was in response to the national calls to action and protests following the murder of George Floyd. This strike reminded Jasmine of the Black Solidarity Day community events of her childhood. Through research, she discovered that Black Solidarity Day initially was more of a regional action. Jasmine hopes to spotlight Black Solidarity Day collection materials within NYU Special Collections, and to build a space for community connection and greater awareness of this annual day of protest.