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ENGL314: BLM - The Evolution of a Hashtag: Timeline

Student-created guide on the Black Lives Matter Movement for ENGL314: The Rhetoric of Social Movements (Spring 2021).


This hashtag has become prominent in the BLM movement. Each and every victim taken from the world through police brutality is listed on these websites. The creators work hard to stay up to date and memorialize every individual. There are variations of the hashtag including #SayHerName. "#SayHerName is a social movement that seeks to raise awareness for black female victims of police brutality and anti-black violence in the United States. Black women are 17% more likely to be stopped by police and 1.5x more likely to be killed than their white counterparts" (Wikipedia).

Timeline Disclaimer

It is important to note that even more noteworthy events and injustices took place as I was creating this guide. This timeline is not exhaustive and is missing a vast majority of the victims of police brutality. To properly memorialize and honors the victims, please view the up-to-date #SayTheirNames lists at the top of this page.

Timeline, as of April 2021


  • February 26, 2012 - Trayvon Martin is shot
  • The hashtag began following the death of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who shot him
  • BLM was co-founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi
  • The now-famous phrase "black lives matter" was first used in Garza's Facebook post responding to the news that Zimmerman was found not guilty
    • Further outrage sparked when Zimmerman went on to sell the gun he used to shoot Martin for $25,000
  • Cullors ended up creating the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter
  • November 23, 2012 - Jordan Davis is shot at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida
    • Michael Dunn fires 10 rounds into the teen's car, killing Davis
    • Dunn is sentenced to life in prison without parole
  • November 2, 2013 - Renisha McBride is shot after knocking on Theodore Wafer's house in the early morning asking for help after she was in a car crash
    • Wafer shoots her through his door
    • He receives a 17-year sentence for a list of charges that include second-degree murder and manslaughter


  • The hashtag gained momentum and interest every time a Black person was killed by the police
  • In July 2014, Eric Garner died after a policeman, Daniel Pantaleo, put him in a chokehold while arresting him.
    • The protest phrase "I can't breathe" stems from this instance as these were Garner's last words
  • August 5th, 2014 - John Crawford is killed by police in Ohio
  • August 9th, 2014 - Michael Brown was shot and killed by Darren Wilson
    • It was decided that there was not enough evidence to charge Wilson
  • Huge protests and riots followed this ruling
    • most of it was done under the hashtag
  • Aug 9-11 became known as the Ferguson unrest
    • 321 protesters were arrested
    • Cullors organized the Black Life Matters Ride which drew in 600 people and would end up sparking more local chapters of the BLM campaign
  • October 20th, 2014 - Laquan McDonald is shot 16 times by officer Jason Van Dyke
  • November 23, 2014 - Tamir Rice is shot by Timothy Loehmann because he was carrying a toy gun


  • Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, and Meagan Hockaday were only a few of the many more Black people killed by police officers in 2015
  • Protests followed every single death
  • April 12th, 2015 - Freddie Gray is arrested
    • April 19th - He dies after sustaining injuries while in police custody
  • July 13th, 2015 - Sandra Bland is found hanged while in police custody
  • November 16, 2015 - James Clark is shot by police in Minneapolis
    • BLM protests surrounded the police station involved for 18 days
    • No charges were filed against officers Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze
  • It is at this point when the movement began highlighting the major injustices faced by Black women and Black transgender women
  • 21 transgender people were killed in the US in 2015, 13 of which were Black


  • Deborah Danner and Alton Sterling were major names of victims in 2016
  • July 2016 saw over 100 protests across America following Sterling's death on the 5th
    • Philandro Castile's shooting occurred the following day in Minneapolis (July 6th)
  • July 22nd, 2016 - Charles Kinsey is shot while trying to help a patient with autism
  • Famous athletes began speaking out this year
    • LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony stated at an awards ceremony, "Enough is enough" when speaking about the recent deaths of Black Americans.
  • Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem before an NFL game
    • This was a highly debated topic for a long time.


  • BLM hosted their first-ever art exhibition to coincide with Black History Month in Virginia
    • over 30 Black artists and creators were featured
  • Protests start to become more than just about the killings of Black people
    • Acquittals and 'not guilty' verdicts also enrage protesters
  • In August 2017, counter-protesters showed up at a white supremacist 'Unite The Right' rally in Virginia


  • Cullors had an interview with ABC News regarding the 5th anniversary of BLM
  • May 1st, 2018 - a study found that #BlackLivesMatter had been used 30 million times on Twitter since 2013
  • Major deaths this year included Grechario Mack and Kenneth Ross Jr.


  • In February 2019, 21 Savage was arrested and detained by ICE
    • Cullors rounded up 60 high profile stars from the music and entertainments industry to advocate for his release
  • In May 2019, Isaiah Lewis was shot and killed
    • 100 people showed up in protest days later


  • At the end of May 2020, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis
    • A video of the events leading up to his very last breath circulated the internet and went viral
  • It was after Floyd that BLM started to heavily protest worldwide
  • May 31st, 2020 - In London, Aima and Tash organized a rally in Trafalgar Square where thousands were in attendance
  • John Boyega, Star Wars star, joined another London protest in Hyde Park


  • January 2021 - the Black Lives Matter Movement was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize 
  • April 20th, 2021 - Police officer, Derek Chauvin, was charged and convicted with second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for the death of George Floyd
    • The jury reached a unanimous verdict after 10 1/2 hours of deliberation



As taken from the official Black Lives Matter website:

"In 2013, three radical Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman.

The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. Our members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.

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 this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

As organizers who work with everyday people, BLM members see and understand significant gaps in movement spaces and leadership. Black liberation movements in this country have created room, space, and leadership mostly for Black heterosexual, cisgender men — leaving women, queer and transgender people, and others either out of the movement or in the background to move the work forward with little or no recognition. As a network, we have always recognized the need to center the leadership of women and queer and trans people. To maximize our movement muscle, and to be intentional about not replicating harmful practices that excluded so many in past movements for liberation, we made a commitment to placing those at the margins closer to the center.

As #BlackLivesMatter developed throughout 2013 and 2014, we utilized it as a platform and organizing tool. Other groups, organizations, and individuals used it to amplify anti-Black racism across the country, in all the ways it showed up. Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson, Mya Hall, Walter Scott, Sandra Bland — these names are inherently important. The space that #BlackLivesMatter held and continues to hold helped propel the conversation around the state-sanctioned violence they experienced. We particularly highlighted the egregious ways in which Black women, specifically Black trans women, are violated. #BlackLivesMatter was developed in support of all Black lives.

In 2014, Mike Brown was murdered by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson. It was a guttural response to be with our people, our family — in support of the brave and courageous community of Ferguson and St. Louis as they were being brutalized by law enforcement, criticized by media, tear gassed, and pepper sprayed night after night. Darnell Moore and Patrisse Cullors organized a national ride during Labor Day weekend that year. We called it the Black Life Matters Ride. In 15 days, we developed a plan of action to head to the occupied territory to support our brothers and sisters. Over 600 people gathered. We made two commitments: to support the team on the ground in St. Louis, and to go back home and do the work there. We understood Ferguson was not an aberration, but in fact, a clear point of reference for what was happening to Black communities everywhere.

When it was time for us to leave, inspired by our friends in Ferguson, organizers from 18 different cities went back home and developed Black Lives Matter chapters in their communities and towns — broadening the political will and movement building reach catalyzed by the #BlackLivesMatter project and the work on the ground in Ferguson.

It became clear that we needed to continue organizing and building Black power across the country. People were hungry to galvanize their communities to end state-sanctioned violence against Black people, the way Ferguson organizers and allies were doing. Soon we created the Black Lives Matter Global Network infrastructure. It is adaptive and decentralized, with a set of guiding principles. Our goal is to support the development of new Black leaders, as well as create a network where Black people feel empowered to determine our destinies in our communities.

The Black Lives Matter Global Network would not be recognized worldwide if it weren’t for the folks in St. Louis and Ferguson who put their bodies on the line day in and day out, and who continue to show up for Black lives."