Woke was used in 2016 in the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, often in hashtags like #StayWoke. But its history is much older. As explained by Nicole Holliday in the Oxford Dictionaries blog, the word originated in the black community in the mid 20th century with the meaning of being conscious of social systems of black oppression.
In 1962, woke was listed in a glossary of African American slang with the definition 'well-informed, up-to-date". "By the following decade, we have evidence of it being used in a more explicit political context," Holliday explains.
In a 1972 play entitled Garvey Lives!, author Barry Beckham writes. "I been sleeping all my life. And now that Mr. Garvey done woke me up, I'm gon stay woke. And I'm gon help him wake up other black folk"
After the Trayvon Martin killing in 2013 and the Black Lives Matter movement, woke has made a comeback — though sometimes it has been used inappropriately in non-political, comical tweets.
"Woke has been racially sanitized for a mainstream audience. Woke has been removed from its ties to black communities as well as its reference to black consciousness and political movements," says Holliday in her blog.
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