Credit: Anchorage Museum, Branstetter Collection, B2021.1
Protester holding a poster representing Black people killed by police (Breonna Taylor, second-to-last row, third from left), 2020
After the killings of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, nationwide protests erupted over systemic racial injustice and the deeply rooted and historic devaluation of Black lives in the US. The refrain, “Black Lives Matter” could be heard from Sanford, Florida to Anchorage, Alaska. The movement gained still more traction after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by law enforcement in Minneapolis and Louisville, respectively, in the spring of 2020. Amid the global pandemic, tens of millions of people protested and demanded an end to racism, white supremacy, and police violence. Again, Alaskans took to the streets, not only in Anchorage and Fairbanks but also in smaller communities such as Palmer and Homer. A multi-racial coalition of Alaska Natives, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and whites stood in solidarity with Black Alaskans. By the end of the year, Black Lives Matter had become one of the largest, most sustained social movements in the nation’s history.