11 June 2017

In recent years, current events discussions in my high school history and government classes have been dominated by names that have piled up with sickening frequency: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland. In looking at the Black Lives Matter movement as a response to these injustices, my class came across a 2015 Oregonian article, “Black Lives Matter: Oregon Justice Department Searched Social Media Hashtags.” The article detailed the department’s digital surveillance of people solely on the basis of their use of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. My students debated whether tying #BlackLivesMatter to potential threats to police (the premise of the surveillance program) was justifiable. Most thought it was not. But what the Oregonian did not note in the article, and what my students had no way of knowing, was the history of this story—the ugly, often illegal, treatment of Black activists by the U.S. justice system during the COINTELPRO era.

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