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A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: The Black Lives Matter Movement

This guide focuses on the civil rights that various groups have fought for within the United States.

Black Lives Matter Movement

In 2013, three female Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called Black Lives Matter.  Black Lives Matter began with a social media hashtag, #BlackLivesMatter, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin back in 2012.  The movement grew nationally in 2014 after the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York.  Since then it has established itself as a worldwide movement, particularly after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, MN.  Most recently, #Black Lives Matter has spearheaded demonstrations worldwide protesting police brutality and systematic racism that overwhelmingly effects the Black community.

According to the Black Lives Matter website they were "founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer.  Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.  By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives."


Selected Library Resources

Black Lives Matter

  • Barbara Ransby, Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century, E185.615 .R26 2018
  • Charlene A. Carruthers, Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical MovementsHQ75.6.U5 C36 2018
  • Christopher J Lebron, The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an IdeaE185.615 .L393 2017
  • DeRay Mckesson, On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for HopeE185.615 .M3535 2018
  • Maria del Guadalupe Davidson et al., eds, Our Black Sons Matter: Mothers Talk About Fears, Sorrows, and Hopes,  E185.86 .O85
  • David Wallace McIvor, Mourning in America: Race and the Politics of LossE-Book
  • Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Black Lives Matter : From a Moment to a MovementE-Book
  • Jessica Watters, Pink Hats and Black Fists: The Role of Women in the Black Lives Matter Movement, 24 Wm. & Mary J. Women & L. 199 (2017-2018)
  • Linda S. Greene, et al., Talking About Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, 34 Wis. J. L. Gender, & Soc'y 109 (2019).


Additional Resources


Take Action 

BLM's #WhatMatters2020 Campaign: This 2020 Election-focused campaign focuses on promoting voter registration "among Millennials, Generation Z, the Black community, and allies" and education voters about a wide range of issues including "racial injustice, police brutality, criminal justice reform, Black immigration, economic injustice, LGBTQIA+ and human rights, environmental injustice, access to healthcare, access to quality education, and voting rights and suppression."

Local BLM Chapters: Local chapters of BLM in many areas of the country, including the DMV, have their own social media accounts to facilitate engagement in civil action close to home.

Follow Black Lives Matter on TwitterFacebook and Instagram


Hashtags to Search

  • #BlackLivesMatter
  • #BLM
  • #WhatMatters2020
  • #WeCantBreathe
  • #SayHerName
  • #SayTheirNames

Talk on "Policing the Black Man"