Black Contemporary Social Movements, Resource Mobilization, and Black Musical Activism

24 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2016  

Andrea Dennis

University of Georgia School of Law

Date Written: August 5, 2016


In the last few years a grassroots social movement has emerged from the Black community. This movement aims to eliminate police and vigilante violence against Blacks nationwide. Blacks in America have long been subjected to this violence, and the issue has recently captured the country’s attention. Multiple groups are pressing for change, including Ferguson Action, Black Lives Matter, Say Her Name, and the leaderless social media effort organized by DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, to name a few. These fledgling activist groups have already experienced some success, garnering public attention and government response. As it currently stands, this nascent civil-rights movement has the potential to advance racial justice in twenty-first century America, but its path is not without obstacles.

According to social-movement theory, the ability of activists to further marshal support is vital to the continued development of this civil-rights movement. Whether engaging in street-level activism or pursuing formal change through judicial, legislative, or electoral processes, movement organizers will have to think rationally and strategically about resource mobilization and oppositional forces. At a minimum, they must amass money and manpower for their activities, establish group credibility in the eyes of their participants and the public, and remain sensitive to the costs of movement participation imposed by government officials and counter-movements.

To address these concerns, social-movement theory and history reveal that Black music and musicians can and should play a key role in Black America’s next-generation battle for criminal justice and civil rights. Social-movement activists should draw Black musicians, especially hip-hop artists, into the movement fold, encouraging Black musicians to initiate a massive wave of cultural activism.

Keywords: social movement, music, cultural activism, Ferguson Action, Black Lives Matter, Say Her Name

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Dennis, Andrea, Black Contemporary Social Movements, Resource Mobilization, and Black Musical Activism (August 5, 2016). Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 79, 2016; UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-28. Available at SSRN:

Andrea Dennis (Contact Author)

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States
706-542-3130 (Phone)

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