The Black Lives Matter movement’s history has become something of a legend in recent years. The grass roots protest group was started by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi after George Zimmerman was acquitted in Trayvon Martin’s shooting death, but it did not become prominently known until after the Ferguson protests and the police shootings of Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray. Rumors spread that billionaire investor George Soros funded Black Lives Matter from the start, but while that’s not true, Soros’ actions did help the movement grow.
Black Lives Matter’s issues also grew since the shooting of Martin. While the movement is commonly associated with protesting cases where white police officers killed black people, their website states they are “broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.” They claim that “state violence” can be equated to diverse issues like black poverty, women’s rights, prison reform, black illegal immigrants, black LGBTQ issues, and black people with disabilities, who they claim “bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy.”
Otherwise, the Black Lives Matter’s history starts with social media and a hashtag. Cullors, Garza, and Tometi came up with #BlackLivesMatter as a way to bring attention to the deaths of black Americans only to have the concept take on a life of its own. Since the movement started as an idea rather than an organization, anyone could claim to be part of Black Lives Matter and represent its supporters. Similar to how the Tea Party movement started as a basic idea only to become organized into well-funded groups, this meant early Black Lives Matter supporters could maintain a diverse set of beliefs yet work together. But as time marched on, just like the Tea Party movement, a solid set of core ideas began to be espoused by those who took Black Lives Matter from a social media protest to an organization which forms rallies and protests across the United States.