How #Blacklivesmatter: Exploring the Role of Hip-Hop Celebrities in Constructing Racial Identity on Black Twitter

Harlow, Summer; Benbrook, Anna
Information, Communication & Society

Pundits disagree on the extent to which hip-hop artists have used their celebrity clout to further the #BlackLivesMatter movement. This study adds to a nascent body of research on Black Twitter by examining how celebrities, in particular, hip-hop celebrities, used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag to create and maintain Black identity during the 2014 Ferguson protests related to racial justice and police brutality. Using computerized and manual content analyses of 2.67 million tweets, this study found more celebrity tweets were framed as related to Black identity compared with marketing/self-promotion. Further qualitative analysis of the Black identity-framed tweets revealed four themes: speaking to whites, solidarity, Black is beautiful, and equality. Through a lens of social identity theory, this study demonstrates how hip-hop celebrities used Black Twitter to construct Black identity and community, building on research that shows group identification is fundamental for creating the solidarity and commitment necessary for collective action.