Charlton D. McIwain

Before #BlackLivesMatter: The roots of Black digital activism

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 they did arrive, Twitter was their primary source for information. It afforded a 24-hour glimpse into a radical new way of making news, of telling stories—giving unfiltered voice to those whose voices are traditionally unheard, ignored, or silenced.

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