What does ‘woke’ mean?


‘What does woke mean?’ was one of the most commonly asked questions this year based on millions of searches on Yahoo. Here’s why it was such a common question in 2021 – and why the search term peaked on 7 March and in the middle of May.

Where does the term ‘woke’ come from?

The phrase “stay woke” was used in a 1938 protest song Scottsboro Boys by blues musician Huddie Ledbetter.

In the song, Ledbetter – also known as Lead Belly – tells a story about nine black teenagers who were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train in Scottsboro, Alabama, in 1931.

Ledbetter warns black people that they “best stay woke, keep their eyes open”, when travelling through Alabama. 

Three decades later in 1962, African American novelist William Melvin Kelley wrote an article in the New York Times titled If You’re Woke, You Dig It, in which he describes a ‘woke’ person as someone who’s…

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