Skip to Main Content

African American Studies

What is Black Lives Matter?



Black Lives Matter is a global, chapter-based, member-led movement that began as a hashtag, a response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer, George Zimmerman. #BlackLivesMatter was the social media rallying cry of three black radical organizers, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi. According to, “Black Lives Matter 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 society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” In 2014, following the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, Black Lives Matter galvanized and organized a collective response, called the Black Life Matters Ride. More than 600 people from all over the country gathered to make two commitments: to provide support to the teams in and around St. Louis, and to return to their respective homes to spearhead local activism. Since then, Black Lives Matter has used its protest strategies to disrupt local politics as well as the campaign events of presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump; activists learned to create opportunities to swap strategies, to avoid government surveillance, and to encrypt their smartphone communications. Time Magazine salutes Black Lives Matter's transformation from “an organic uprising” to “organized blocs with specific demands” that attend to issues of police brutality and injustice. Black Lives Matter has about 30 official chapters and by upholding their principles, new chapters can acquire a charter; the network is growing. In 2015, Black Lives Matter was on the short list for Time ‘s Person of the Year. The movement and its local chapters have garnered a wide range of responses to their collective call, from #alllivesmatter to the tragic events at Charlottesville, VA. Despite the counter-protests, Black Lives Matter continues to effect change and to introduce a vocabulary for confronting American society's various social ills.

-CREDO Entry from Encyclopedia of African-American Writing

Must access on campus or have DOM ID for off campus access


An interview with the founders of Black Lives Matter | Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi

Born out of a social media post, the Black Lives Matter movement has sparked discussion about race and inequality across the world. In this spirited conversation with Mia Birdsong, the movement's three founders share what they've learned about leadership and what provides them with hope and inspiration in the face of painful realities. Their advice on how to participate in ensuring freedom for everybody: join something, start something and "sharpen each other, so that we all can rise."

Reference Sources



Books & eBooks

Kanopy Streaming


On July 10, 2015, Sandra Bland, a vibrant 28-year-old African American from Chicago, was arrested for a traffic violation in a small Texas town. After three days in custody, she was found hanging from a noose in her cell. Bland's death was quickly ruled a suicide, sparking allegations of a murder and cover-up, and turning her case and name into a rallying cry nationwide.

From the Oscar(r)-nominated, Emmy(r)- and Peabody Award-winning team of directors/producers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, SAY HER NAME: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF SANDRA BLAND examines this story in depth, revealing previously unknown details. The film follows the Bland family and legal team from the first weeks after her death as they try to find out what really happened in that jail cell in Texas. Embedded with the family and their lawyers, the filmmakers tracked the story for two years, drawing on key documents, jail footage and interviews with those closest to the events.


Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, WHOSE STREETS? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together as freedom fighters.

As the National Guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance. Filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis know this story because they are the story. WHOSE STREETS? is a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not for their civil rights, but for the right to live.


LAW & ORDER surveys the wide range of work the police are asked to perform: enforcing the law, maintaining order, and providing general social services. The incidents shown illustrate how training, community expectations, socio-economic status of the subject, the threat of violence, and discretion affect police behavior.


This documentary welcomes dialogue around racial inequality, policing, and the Criminal Justice System by focusing on Eric Garners case. We hope viewers will increase their understanding of issues plaguing Black and Brown Communities by witnessing a massive group of protesters unite for the purpose of justice.

Eric Garners case centers at the struggle between new age policing that involves policy and laws that aggressively target Quality of Life offenses known as Broken Windows; selling Lucy cigarettes is considered one of these crimes, which Mr. Garner was known to do but contrary to belief he was not doing on the day he was killed, he was actually breaking up a fight prior to law enforcements arrival.

This film was shot in 2014. At the time it was completed we hoped that the 70,000 plus people who voiced their concern over the Eric Garners death would help to cease further causalities, unfortunately the opposite was true.

Since, law enforcement weaponry is more powerful than it has ever been. A steady increase in police killings has occurred from 2013-2015. In 2013 there were 771 killings, 2014 about 1100, and by 2015 the year concluded with 1201. An unacceptable portion of these citizens were unarmed.

As of August 2016, 734 people have been killed by U.S. police since January 1. It is going to take a new generation of thinkers to create a new system, one that is equal, loving, and for all people. Hopefully our film will help to spark great ideas and discussions surrounding the solutions and changes needed to achieve a new Criminal Justice System.


Black Lives Matter LibGuide


For more information on Black Lives Matter, check out the Black Lives Matter LibGuide by clicking the image above!