Histories for Black Lives
The long, hot summer of 2020 witnessed the largest protest movement in U.S. history. Amid a global pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests peaked on June 6, according to the New York Times, when “nearly half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States.” By July, it was estimated that about 15 million to 26 million people participated in demonstrations over the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others. There have been demonstrations in all 50 states and on every continent except Antarctica.
The 2020 demonstrations joined the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), a movement committed to social justice set off by racist police and vigilante violence. The M4BL, as described by scholar-activist Barbara Ransby, is “politically and ideologically grounded in the U.S.-based Black feminist tradition, a tradition that embraces an intersectional analysis while insisting on the interlocking and interconnected nature of different systems of oppression.” Since the 2012 killing of Trayvon Martin, the m4bl has been devoted to social transformation via systemic change, including activist scholarship and histories that recognize its antecedents.
I am thankful for the contributors of this Special Issue. This project would not have been possible without the labor from Keisha Blain, Amira Rose Davis, Ashley Farmer, Kali Gross, LaShawn Harris, Ashley Howard, Kellie Carter Jackson, and Shannon King. Further, it would not have been possible without the support from the Organization of American Historians (oah), the staff from The American Historian, and the leadership of its editor Jonathan Warner. In his June 5 statement, OAH President George J. Sánchez called on members “to deepen our commitments and redouble our efforts to preserve, interpret, and teach history that helps us all understand the ongoing centrality of racism in the United States, as well as the massive efforts to fight for justice – the present included.” This Special Issue is an answer to that call.
Carl Suddler, Special Guest Editor for this issue, is an Assistant Professor of History at Emory University. His primary historical research interests examine the intersections of youth, race, and crime in the United States. His works have appeared in scholarly and popular outlets such as the Journal of American History, Journal of African American History, American Studies Journal, Journal of Sports History as well as the Washington Post, The Conversation, HuffPost, Bleacher Report, and the Brookings Institute. He has appeared on venues such as CNN, ABC, Al Jazeera, and NPR. Suddler’s first book, Presumed Criminal: Black Youth and the Justice System in Postwar New York, was published by New York University Press in 2019.
 Larry Buchanan, Quoctrung Bui, and Jugal K. Patel, “Black Lives Matter May Be the Largest Movement in U.S. History,” New York Times, July 3, 2020.
 Barbara Ransby, Making All Black Lives Matter: Reimagining Freedom in the Twenty-First Century (2018), p. 14.