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Black Freedom Movements in American History

Some resources to help understand protest and activism for Black freedom in American history

This guide is meant to help you find information to contextualize the protests that started in May 2020. It is a work in progress.


On Monday, May 25, 2020, Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd while Floyd was handcuffed and being held on the ground. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, even after Floyd said repeatedly "I can't breathe" and after Chauvin was told that Floyd was unconscious. In the days to follow, protests erupted across the United States and around the world, not only about Floyd's death, but about police violence against Black Americans and systemic racism in general. Floyd's death followed those of other Black people who had been shot and killed, including 26-year-old Breonna Taylor in her home by the Louisville (KY) Metro Police; 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging near his home in Glynn County, GA; and 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, who was shot in the back while running away from police. The vast majority of protests were peaceful and called for an end to systemic racism, more transparency of accusations of officer misconduct, an end to qualified immunity, disarming police officers, and redirecting funds from police departments to social service organizations.