Roy Gilbert

A People’s History of Black Twitter, Part I

By Jason Parham


07.15.2021 08:00 AM A People’s History of Black Twitter, Part I

From #UKnowUrBlackWhen to #BlackLivesMatter, how a loose online network became a pop culture juggernaut, an engine of social justice, and a lens into the future. Illustration: Aaron Marin; Getty Images A People’s History of Black Twitter

Read each installment of our three-part series. I: Coming Together (2008–2012)

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COMING SOON II: Rising Up (2012–2016)COMING SOON III: Getting Through (2016–present)Get Our Longreads Newsletter Near the end of 2009, during the twilight months of a decade that saw the first Black man elected to the US presidency, Ashley Weatherspoon was chasing virality on a young app called Twitter . As the personal assistant for the singer Adrienne Bailon, a former member of the pop groups 3LW and the Cheetah Girls, Weatherspoon often worked on social media strategy. For weeks, she and Bailon had been testing out hashtags on both their feeds to see what would connect with fans. A mild success came with variations on #UKnowUrBoyfriendsCheatingWhen. Later, on a car ride around Manhattan, they began playing with #UKnowUrFromNewYorkWhen. “We started going ham on it,” Weatherspoon told me when we spoke over the phone in June. As the two women were laughing and joking, an even better idea popped into Weatherspoon’s head. “Then I said, oh, ‘You know you’re Black when …’”It was the first Sunday in September, at exactly 4:25 pm, when Weatherspoon logged on to Twitter and wrote […]

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