Black History Month: Key events in a decade of Black Lives Matter

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul wears a Black History Month shirt prior to the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Footprint Center.

Black Lives Matter was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in January for raising awareness and consciousness of racial injustice. Image: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Kate Whiting
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  • February is Black History Month and marks 10 years since the death of Trayvon Martin sparked the Black Lives Matter movement.
  • Black Lives Matter has evolved from a hashtag to a global movement for racial justice.
  • Here are some of the key events over the decade.

Ten years ago on 26 February, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin went to buy a bag of Skittles and some iced tea.

As he walked to his dad’s fiancée’s home in Sanford, Florida, he was shot dead by the gated community’s neighbourhood watch coordinator.

His killer, George Zimmerman, was later acquitted of second-degree murder, sparking the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.

Martin would have turned 27 on 5 February. Here are some of the key moments in the racial justice movement that has gone global in the decade since he died.

April 2012

In the spring following Martin’s death, a group of young people – the Dream Defenders – marched from Daytona Beach Florida to Sanford.

July 2013

In response to Zimmerman’s acquittal, on self-defence grounds, thousands of protesters took to the streets across the US, demanding “justice for Trayvon”.

The Dream Defenders occupied Florida State Capitol for a month, demanding a repeal of the Stand Your Ground law – which permits use of lethal force in self-defence when law-abiding citizens fear their lives are in danger.

BLM founder Alicia Garza wrote a Facebook post she called “a love letter to Black people”. It was shared online by her friend Patrisse Cullors, who added the hashtag BlackLivesMatter. Another friend, Opal Tometi, created the BlackLivesMatter.com website.


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In July, 43-year-old Eric Garner was wrestled to the ground by New York police officers and held in a chokehold. He died after saying “I can’t breathe” 11 times.

Black teenager Michael Brown was shot dead by a white police officer in August in Ferguson, Missouri. The deaths sparked rapid nationwide growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, with a Freedom Ride organized to Ferguson and a rise in the use of the hashtag on Twitter.

In the three weeks after the grand jury decision not to indict the officer involved in Brown’s death, the hashtag was used 1.7 million times. It was used more than 189,000 times on a single day the following month, when the New York grand jury decided not to indict the police officers involved in Garner’s death.

How the #BlackLivesMatter movement grew on social media.
How the #BlackLivesMatter movement grew on social media. Image: Pew Research Center


The death of Walter Scott, shot in the back by a white police officer, sparked protests in North Charleston, where BLM protesters called for justice and an end to police discrimination. There were also protests after the deaths of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, and mother Meagan Hockaday, who was fatally shot at home.


In July, Philando Castile was shot dead during a traffic stop, the day after protests in Baton Rouge over the killing of Alton Sterling. On 14 July, four NBA basketball players – LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade – opened an awards ceremony with a plea to end the injustice.

Wade said: “The racial profiling has to stop. The shooting to kill mentality has to stop. Not seeing the value of Black and Brown bodies has to stop. But also, the retaliation has to stop. The endless gun violence in places like Chicago, Dallas, not to mention Orlando – it has to stop. Enough. Enough is enough.”

The following month, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick symbolically took the knee during the national anthem before a game – a silent protest that would be picked up around the world.

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In June, hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Minnesota when the officer who shot Castile was found not guilty.


As the Black Lives Matter movement marked five years, another fatal shooting – of unarmed Stephon Clark – sparked more protests.


Rapper 21 Savage was detained by the US immigration agency in February. BLM co-founder Cullors galvanized support from celebrities and human rights organizations, with a #Free21Savage campaign, leading to him being released on bond.


In March, medical technician Breonna Taylor was shot by police in her home in Louisville, sparking protests calling for the public to “say her name”.

Black Lives Matter went global after the death of George Floyd was captured on video – with police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes.

At a protest in London, Star Wars actor John Boyega made an impassioned speech.



Black Lives Matter was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in January for raising awareness and consciousness of racial injustice.

In April, Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, to cheers outside the court. The family’s lawyer said it marked a turning point in US history.

The World Economic Forum's Partnering for Racial Justice in Business is focused on eradicating all strands of systemic racism in the workplace. You can read more about its impact here.

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