Ten years ago, in February 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman while walking home in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman’s subsequent acquittal sparked outrage, protests, and catalyzed the Black Lives Matter movement.
BLM was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, who describe the organization and its work as “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.”
Since 2013, the movement has activated around the killings of unarmed Black civilians, largely at the hands of police officers, around the country. The movement has called for justice for victims and their families, accountability from lawmakers and law enforcement, and widespread reform and reallocation of funding to communities. BLM has faced its own challenges as well, including internal conflict, external attacks, and broad disinformation campaigns.
The Black Lives Matter movement and policing in the United States are urgent topics that Capital B will cover on a continuing basis. Below, you’ll find some suggested reading to ground you in the major themes and important context of the movement.
What to Read
The Matter of Black Lives — In this 2016 New Yorker piece, Jelani Cobb does a deep dive into the BLM movement, and the possible future that such a movement could bring about.
The Injustice of this Moment is not an Aberration — In this 2020 opinion piece for The New York Times, Michelle Alexander argues that the racism and white nationalism that reared its head in the wake of the Obama administration is not an anomaly, it’s part of what the country was built on.
The Next Reconstruction — This 2020, piece from Adam Serwer for The Atlantic, argues that the inflection point brought about by police shootings and subsequent protests presents possibly the best chance of remaking America into a multiracial democracy that has existed since Reconstruction.
Black Lives Matter has Grown More Powerful, and More Divided — A 2021 piece from John Eligon for The New York Times documents both internal tensions and external criticisms plaguing the growing BLM organization.
In the Shadow of Race — A seven-article, award-winning Orlando Sentinel series highlighting race relations in central Florida in the aftermath of Trayvon Martin’s murder. Subscription required.
Every Police-Involved Death in Minnesota Since 2000 — A database of every person who died after a physical confrontation with police officers in Minnesota. Put together by Jeff Hargarten, Jennifer Bjorhus, MaryJo Webster, and Kelly Smith for the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Further Reading and Listening
They Can’t Kill Us All: The Story of the Struggle for Black Lives — A reflection on the early days of Black Lives Matter from reporter Wesley Lowery, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of police shootings.
Fatal Force — A series started in 2015 by The Washington Post to catalog fatal police shootings across the nation. Subscription may be required.
The Butterfly Effect of Ferguson — In this 2016 episode, Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch explores how the murder of Michael Brown and the subsequent protests in Ferguson, Missouri, altered the conversation around race a policing.