In This Review

The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea
The Making of Black Lives Matter: A Brief History of an Idea
By Christopher J. Lebron
216 pp, Oxford University Press, 2017

Lebron takes a deep, compelling dive into the intellectual and cultural background of the Black Lives Matter movement. The concrete demands of the movement for safer and less violent law enforcement are important, he argues, but the movement flows from a deeper source: the quest of African Americans to live rich lives in a society that all too frequently devalues black humanity and blocks black achievement. In his view, the political push for black rights has always been the external aspect of a movement whose center is the inner, spiritual struggle of black Americans to assert and protect their dignity in a harsh environment. A vital element of the struggle, Lebron argues, involves maintaining the capacity to love white people even in the midst of injustice—a position that evokes Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Christian roots of the African American political tradition. For Lebron, to lose that capacity would mean a diminished self; in his view, the Black Lives Matter movement derives its deepest meaning from simultaneously struggling against injustice and fighting the corrosive effects of that injustice on its victims.