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Protest Art: Case Study: Black Lives Matters

What is Black Lives Matter?

Black Lives Matter is a global political and social movement. Its mission is to eradicate white supremacy, systemic oppression, police brutality and all racially motivated violence experienced by the Black Community.

It began as a response in 2013 with the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's murderer under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old teenager was murdered while walking back to his family's home from a convenience store. After his murderer's acquittal, the hashtag #BLACKLIVESMATTER (#BLM) rose to popularity. 

In 2014 after the deaths of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City by the force of police officers, the hashtag turned into protests. Protests continue into the year 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Dominique Fells, and unfortunately more under the force of police brutality. 

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tomet created the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013 as a hashtag. Now the organization has over 40 member-led chapters, globally. 

More information about the organization can be found here.



This guide serves as a starting point for those interested in the Black Lives Matter Movement. It provides resources about the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and how to relates to the current BLM Movement through art, literature, data and zines.

Black Lives Matter. (n.d.). Black Lives Matter. Retrieved November 15, 2020, from





Simply Analytics

SimplyAnalytics (formerly SimplyMap) is a leading database that provides analytics, data visualization, spatial analysis, and GIS software to educational institutions, non-profit organizations, businesses and government agencies. Using numeric and government data, users can create thematic maps, reports and conduct original research with tool provided by Simply Analytics. 

With a New York Public Library card, users can access this database from home. Don't have a New York Public Library card yet? Click here to sign up for free! 


Below is an example of maps created with Simply Analytics using data from USAFacts, a not-for-profit, nonpartisan civic initiative and The Census Bureau. 
This data shows a correlation between deaths from COVID-19 in November 2020 and the percentage of the Black population in The United States. These maps highlight the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement in all aspects of life, including the healthcare system. 


Map Showing: Prevalence of Deaths from COVID-19 (per 100,000 individuals) as of November 21 2020

Prevalence of Deaths from COVID-19 (per 100,000 individuals) as of November 21 2020

This dataset is adapted from data that is offered by USAFacts. You can find the source data, as well as detailed methodology, on their website: Coronavirus in the United States: Mapping the COVID-19 outbreak

USAFacts is a not-for-profit, nonpartisan civic initiative providing the most comprehensive and understandable source of government data available. This dataset is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Please note: The total national count of confirmed cases on the USAFacts website includes individuals from the Grand Princess cruise ship who have since been repatriated to their home countries. These individuals have been omitted from the USAFacts county-level datasets, and as such, are not reflected in our aggregate totals at the national level.


Map Showing: Percentage of Black Population, Alone, 2020

% Black Population, Alone, 2020

Data SourceBureau of the Census 2010 Census PL 94 – 171 files for April 1, 2010, Population Estimates Program supplies various input files for age sex race as of 4/1/2010, ACS survey data (5 year version) has been used for a Summary type file and substitutes on an annual basis the previous decennial SF3 files. EASI also uses the ACS PUMS (Public Use Microdata Sample) to generate important tabulations that are not part of the standard release of the Census or the ACS. Annual Demographic Survey, Current Population Reports (P20; P25; P60; and numerous special Census reports. Please note that EASI will also make some modifications to Year 2010 benchmarks as the ACS release more closely coincides with the desired April 1, 2010 actual Census data through 2017. EASI has collected from the Census Bureau all current local (counties etc.) and national updates and estimates for all the key demographic information. All these official estimates have been analyzed and then incorporated into our estimates and projections using a variety of EASI models.

EASI has summarized from the United States Postal Service (USPS) mailable Households at a County, ZIP Code, Census Tract, and Block Group level. These data have been used as the primary input to estimate local current change within a small area such as a Block Group. Mailable households are not the same as Census Households but are used to indicate recent annual change in household formations. These changes are combined with an EASI proprietary model for updating and forecasting at the Block Groups.

Examples in Contemporary Artworks

Fatih Ringgold, "United States of Attica", 1972

Offset poster, 21 3/4 x 27 1/2 in.

The United States of Attica (1972), was the most widely distributed Ringgold political poster of the 1970s. This poster was dedicated to the men who died in 1971 at Attica prison for demonstrating against the deplorable conditions. This red, black and green poster depicts a map of the United States. The dates and other details of infamous acts of violence that occurred are posted within each state – such as race riots, witch-hunts, presidential assassinations, lynching’s and Indian wars. Around the periphery of the map is a statistical history of the dead, wounded and missing in American wars starting with the 1776 Revolutionary War and ending at the Vietnam War. An appeal for people to add their own updated information was put on the poster.

Ringgold, F. (1972). United States of Attica [Offset Poster].

Betye Saar, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima”, 1972

assemblage, 11 3/4 x 8 x 2 3/4 in.

“My work started to become politicized after the death of Martin Luther King in 1968. But The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, which I made in 1972, was the first piece that was politically explicit. There was a community centre in Berkeley, on the edge of Black Panther territory in Oakland, called the Rainbow Sign. They issued an open invitation to black artists to be in a show about black heroes, so I decided to make a black heroine. For many years, I had collected derogatory images: postcards, a cigar-box label, an ad for beans, Darkie toothpaste. I found a little Aunt Jemima mammy figure, a caricature of a black slave, like those later used to advertise pancakes. She had a broom in one hand and, on the other side, I gave her a rifle. In front of her, I placed a little postcard, of a mammy with a mulatto child, which is another way black women were exploited during slavery. I used the derogatory image to empower the black woman by making her a revolutionary, like she was rebelling against her past enslavement. When my work was included in the exhibition ‘WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution’, at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles in 2007, the activist and academic Angela Davis gave a talk in which she said the black women’s movement started with my work The Liberation of Aunt Jemima. That was a real thrill.”

Saar, B. (1972). The Liberation of Aunt Jemima [Assemblage]. UC Berkley Digital Archive, San Francisco, USA.

Saar, B. (2016 ). Influences:Betye Saar,”



Gordon Parks, "Untitled, Watts, California,",1967

The camera can be a powerful weapon against repression, racism, violence and inequality. The American photographer Gordon Parks (1912-2006) referred to the camera as his “weapon of choice” and used photography to expose the deep divisions in American society. Parks was an important champion of equal rights for Afro-Americans and in his work addressed themes such as poverty, marginalization and injustice

Foam. (2017, April 12). Gordon Parks I Am You. Selected works 1942 - 1978. Press Release. Gordon Parks Foundation.

Parks, G. (1967). Untitled [Photograph].


Titus Kaphar, "Shifting the Gaze", 2017

Oil on canvas, 83 × 1031/4 in.

Titus Kaphar’s Shifting the Gaze draws our attention to narratives from the past that illuminate conditions in the present. Kaphar completed the painting, a loose copy of a seventeenth-century family portrait by the Dutch artist Frans Hals, onstage during a 2017 TED talk. In a dramatic finale, he picked up a large paint brush and proceeded to obliterate many of the figures in the painting with broad strokes of white paint, leaving a Black boy as the center of the composition. By shifting the spectator’s gaze to the boy, believed to be the family servant, Kaphar brings into focus individuals who are often deliberately overlooked in the historical record, for reasons that include race, class, or gender. By doing so, he makes a case for the need to write new, more honest and inclusive histories.

Kaphar, T. (2017). Shifting the Gaze [Oil on canvas]. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, United States.

Amy Sherald, "Portrait of Breonna Taylor for Vanity Fair", 2020

The portrait of Breonna Taylor for this historic cover of Vanity Fair marks the second time in Amy Sherald’s career that she has created a commissioned work, following her painting of Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery in 2018. Renowned for her documentation of the contemporary Black experience, the artist describes the cover as ‘a contribution to the moment and to activism.’ On creating the work, Amy Sherald explained ‘I made this portrait for her family. I mean, of course I made it for Vanity Fair, but the whole time I was thinking about her family. Producing this image keeps Breonna alive forever.’

Hauser & Wirth. (2020, August 24). Amy Sherald Paints Breonna Taylor for the Cover of Vanity Fair’s September 2020 Issue.

Sherald, A. (2020). Portrait of Breonna Taylor for Vanity Fair [Painting]. In Vanity Fair (September 2020 ed.).


#BLM Reading List

Efforts to Archive 2020 #BLM protests

Video Demonstration: How to Use the George Floyd and Anti-Racist Database