Black Lives Matter: A timeline of the movement

It all began with a hashtag in 2013, and now it's a global network
Black Lives Matter: A timeline of the movement
CosmoBy Cosmo -

The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in the USA have sparked a new wave of protests over the past few weeks, under the Black Lives Matter (BLM) banner.

Black Lives Matter campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards Black people. The international human rights campaign began on social media in 2013 with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, and has since gone on to lead calls for Black people to be treated fairly by authorities in the USA and around the world.

According to Black Lives Matter, the movement is "an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression." In 2018, five years after Black Lives Matter began, co-founder Alicia Garza said in an interview that BLM's "goal is to build the kind of society where black people can live with dignity and respect."

Read our timeline of key Black Lives Matter moments in the US to learn about how the movement has grown from a social media post to a global network.

2013

The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013, following the death of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teenager who was shot while walking to a family friend's house, and the subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot him.

The campaign was co-founded by three Black women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, as a response to the police killings of Black people. The phrase "black lives matter" was first used in a Facebook post by Garza after Zimmerman was found not guilty, and was the inspiration for the campaign. Cullors recognised the power of Garza's words and created the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, and the campaign was born.

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi created the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013

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2014

The movement quickly gathered pace, with interest and momentum spiking every time a Black person was killed as a result of an altercation with police.

In 2014, Black Lives Matter protested against the deaths of numerous Black and African-American people. In July that year, Eric Garner died in New York City after a policeman put him in a chokehold while arresting him. Then, in August, unarmed teenager Michael Brown was killed by a gunshot from a police officer, Darren Wilson (it was later decided that there was not enough evidence to charge Wilson). Both peaceful protests and riots followed, much of which was done under the banner and hashtag of Black Lives Matter.

In response, co-founder Patrisse Cullors organised the Black Life Matters Ride, which drew a gathering of 600 people and sparked the founding of more localised Black Lives Matter groups and the dissemination of the campaign into a network.

2015

The following year saw another spate of Black people killed by police officers in the USA, including Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Meagan Hockaday. Black Lives Matter protested against these and many more. 

Protests in Baltimore in April 2015 following the death of Freddie Gray

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2016

2016 saw Black Lives Matter organise many more protests against police brutality towards Black people. Those whose deaths occurred due to police actions included Deborah Danner and Alton Sterling. Early July saw over 100 protests take place across America following Sterling's death on July 5th, and Philandro Castile's shooting the next day.

This year also saw major American sports stars lend their voices to the cause of Black Lives Matter. In July 2016, basketball players including LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony opened an awards ceremony by speaking about recent deaths of Black people, saying: "Enough is enough." Then, from August, many sports stars began taking part in protests during national anthems at sports games, beginning with Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem ahead of an NFL game.

2017

Black History Month is celebrated in February in the USA (it's marked in October in the UK). In 2017, Black Lives Matter put on their first art exhibition timed to coincide with Black History Month in the US state of Virginia. It featured the work of over 30 Black artists and creators.

Black Lives Matter protest not only the killings of Black people, but also some acquittals and 'not guilty' verdicts in those cases which make it to trial. In June, they held a protest after the officer accused of killing Philandro Castile the year before was found not guilty.

In August, Black Lives Matter campaigners were among counter-protestors at a white supremacist 'Unite The Right' rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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2018

In an interview with ABC News marking five years of Black Lives Matter, Cullors explained the impact the organisation had had on other causes. She said: “[BLM] has popularised civil disobedience and the need to put our bodies on the line... With things like the Women’s March, and Me Too, and March for our Lives, all of these movements, their foundations are in Black Lives Matter.”

By May 1st, 2018, a study found that the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter had been used nearly 30 million times on Twitter since the first instance in 2013.

As they marked five years of action, Black Lives Matter continued to highlight the deaths of Black people who had lost their lives at the hands of US police that year, including Grechario Mack and Kenneth Ross Jr.

2019

In February 2019, the rapper 21 Savage was arrested and detained by the US's immigration agency, ICE. As a result, Cullors convened a group of 60 high profile stars from the music and entertainment worlds to advocate for his release.

Then, in May, Oklahoma teenager Isaiah Lewis was shot by police and killed. Days later, Black Lives Matter held a 100-strong rally in protest.

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2020

Major protests were sparked at the end of May following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Police officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been charged with second-degree murder - raised from an initial charge of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter (the case is yet to go to trial). Three other officers who were there have all been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Their cases are also yet to go to trial.

Black Lives Matter went on to organise protests around the world. In London, two Black activists Aima, 18, and Tash, 21, organised a rally in Trafalgar Square, which was attended by thousands on Sunday, May 31st.

Many more have followed since. At one London protest, Star Wars actor John Boyega joined 15,000 others in Hyde Park, and told crowds:

"Today is about innocent people who were halfway through their process, we don’t know what George Floyd could have achieved, we don’t know what Sandra Bland could have achieved, but today we’re going to make sure that won’t be an alien thought to our young ones."

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Via Cosmopolitan U.K.