Before #BlackLivesMatter: The Roots of Black Digital Activism

Written by on February 23, 2024

From the beginnings of computing, technology has been used to oppress or to liberate Black Americans.

In 2015, two colleagues—Deen Freelon and Meredith Clark—and I set out to better understand how Black Lives Matter emerged. Our report, Beyond the Hashtags, the Online Struggle for Offline Justice, crystalized then-NAACP president Cornell Brooks’ sentiment: “This isn’t your grandparents’ civil rights movement.” Our study showed us that Ferguson, Missouri birthed Black Lives Matter. It told us that Twitter named Michael Brown for the world. Traditional news media outlets were a day late, and when . . .

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