Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones, and the New Protest Journalism

Richardson, Allissa V

Bearing Witness While Black: African Americans, Smartphones and the New Protest #Journalism tells the story of this century’s most powerful black social movement through the eyes of 15 activists. At the height of the Black Lives Matter uprisings, African Americans filmed and tweeted evidence of fatal police encounters, spurring a global debate on excessive police force, which disproportionately claimed the lives of African Americans. The book reveals how smartphones, social media, and social justice empowered black activists to create their own news outlets, continuing a centuries-long, African American tradition of using the news to challenge racism. It identifies three overlapping eras of domestic terror against African American people—slavery, lynching, and police brutality—and the journalism documenting their atrocities, generating a genealogy showing how slave narratives of the 1700s inspired the abolitionist movement; black newspapers of the 1800s galvanized the anti-lynching and civil rights movements; and smartphones of today powered the anti–police brutality movement. This lineage of black witnessing, the book shows, is formidable and forever evolving. The text is informed by the author’s activism. Personal accounts of her teaching and her own experiences of police brutality are woven into the book to share how she has inspired black youth to use mobile devices to speak up from the margins. Bearing Witness While Black conveys a crucial need to protect our right to look into the forbidden space of violence against black bodies and to continue to regard the smartphone as an instrument of moral suasion and social change.