Photo courtesy of Frangine, S. (n.d.). Graphic designers share illustrations and resources in support of Black Lives Matter [Photograph]. Dezeen.
Photo courtesy of Frangine, S. (n.d.). Graphic designers share illustrations and resources in support of Black Lives Matter [Photograph]. Dezeen.

Black Lives Matter: The Series

The History of Black Lives Matter

February 26, 2021

Just last year we watched peaceful protests and riots and heard chants for change within racial injustice. The advocate for the support of black-owned businesses and organizations. And more joining in the fight to go against policy brutality and racial discrimination based on one’s skin color. #Black Lives Matter gained a global profile bigger than ever. But where did it all come from? Who started the hashtag? What is the story behind the #Black Lives Matter movement?

Photo courtesy of  The founders of Black Lives Matter: “We gave tongue to something that we all knew was happening” [Photograph]. (n.d.). Glamour.

The origination of the Black Lives Matter movement takes place in 2013, a year later after the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. In response to the absolution of Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, three women radical Black organizers; Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi started the #BlackLivesMatter project. Driven by the reactions of outrage, Garza created a series of Facebook posts titled “A Love Letter to Black People,” where in the final post she wrote: “black people. I love you. I love us. Our lives matter.” Carrying this same belief, Cullors responded to the post by writing #BlackLivesMatter. Tometi also contributed and supported her two friends’ comments, and the movement was built. 

Photo courtesy of Protest poster with text blm, black lives matter and with raised fist Premium Vector [Photograph]. (n.d.). Freepik

However, the hashtag was not quick to grow in popularity. It took a year later in 2014, after another young black man Michael Brown was murdered in Ferguson, Missouri, by a police officer, to capture eyes. Similarly, people came out to protest just as before after the murder of Trayvon Martin. Behind these protests, Garza, Cullors, and Tometi, and more than 500 individuals across the nation planned the Black Lives Matter Freedom Ride to St. Louis, Missouri in order to display their objection to the racially influenced violence towards black people seen for centuries. The goal of this ride was to find a way to bring and move #BlackLivesMatter “from social media to the streets.” Three weeks after the death of Michael Brown, the usage of the hashtag grew among social media platforms. It grew increasingly with a number of 177,772 times being used, after the police officer who shot Brown was not found guilty. By the end of November that year, #BlackLivesMatter was used a total of 1.7 million times. 

Inspired by the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, the 1980s Black Feminist movement, the Pan-African movement, the political hip hop movement, and the 2000s LGTBQ+ movement, the Black Lives Matter Movement has brought light and people together of marginalized backgrounds. Today, as a global network, it has opened the door for individuals to use their imaginations and create innovations. Spreading love and joy amongst the Black community, the movement has transformed Black activism across the nation in numerous ways. Eight years and beyond, #BlackLivesMatter will continue to be used to fight against racism, discrimination, police brutality, transphobia, and so much more and bring freedom. 

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