The Black Lives Matter movement started in 2013 as a response to the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. What started out as a hashtag on a social networking site quickly grew into a large offline grassroots movement, with no formal hierarchy and with decentralized chapters spread across the United States. By using social media platforms such as Twitter, local BLM chapters can respond to the incessant violence against Black people and can contenst Black stereotypes appearing in the news media. This paper is about how the media frame and represent Black people, and how the BLM movement represents itself. There is exigency for this study because few academic studies explain how the Black Lives Matter movement's social media use challenges negative stereotypes about Black people (Langford & Speight, 2015). To address these gaps in the literature, this paper demonstrates how the Chicago, Los Angeles, and Mineeapolis BLM chapters' Twitter pages constitute a discursive structure that could potentially counter the prevelant Black criminality stereotype perpetuated by mainstream media narratives. My study demonstrates how the BLM movement's use of Twitter constitutes a discursive structure. In this study, I analyzed tweets appearing in these three chapters' Twitter accounts during the month of December 2015, the month the Black Xmas protest occured. I followed van Dijk (2001) and Shirazi's (2013) approaches to critical discourse analysis to understand how the chapters' use of Twitter constitutes a discursive structure. These two approaches allow me to study "the way social power abuse, dominance, and inequality are enacted, reproduced, and resisted by text and talk in the social and political context"(van Dijk, 2001, p. 352) on social media. I find that these chapters represented the movement and its supporters in a manner that challenges the Black criminality stereotype. Through its use of social media, the Black Lives Matter movement has helped deconstruct stereotypes and challenged media hegemony. With this study, I aim to bring about social change by understanding how the movement's use of Twitter constitutes a discursive structure, which represents Black people in a new way, and by doing so to affirm that Black lives matter in a world in which it seems they do not.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (MA) -- Communication; Black lives matter movement; Social media -- Political aspects; Protest movements -- 21st century

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Seaver College



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Satchel, Roslyn