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ONE YEAR AFTER the murder of George Floyd, worldwide tributes and remembrances poured forth on May 25. Culture leaders, artists, and journalists weighed in on the state of the national landscape and Floyd’s legacy as police killings persist and Black Lives Matter protests and calls for justice continue in response. Floyd’s family visited with members of Congress and went to the White House to meet with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris about the civil rights and police reform legislation that bears his name. Biden had hoped to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2021 by the anniversary and is still pushing the stalled bill forward. A few highlights from the day of refection follow:

Museums Matter

One year after the murder of George Floyd, Kevin Young, the new director of the National Museum of Africa American History and Culture (NMAAHC), released a statement reflecting on his legacy. He likened Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020, to that of Emmett Till who was beaten and killed on Aug. 28, 1955, by two white men in Money, Miss.

Young said the decision by his mother Mamie Till to hold a public funeral with an open casket “fueled national outrage” and “helped power the Civil Right Movement.” One of most somber and motivating installations at the Smithsonian museum is the casket of 14-year-old Till. “History teaches us that action in the name of the fallen can bring about powerful change,” Young said.

“History teaches us that action in the name of the fallen can bring about powerful change.” — Kevin Young


NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is keeping track of progress on police reform. Writing on Twitter, Sherrilyn Ifill, who heads the organization, said: “Much will be said abt where things stand a yr after the murder of #GeorgeFloyd. Did protests make a difference? Has anything changed? Yes. Is there much more to do and are we facing strong backlash? Yes and yes. We’ve compiled it all.” | Video by LDF

Legal Landscape

What has changed in the year since George Floyd was murdered? Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, shared an LDF report charting advancements in policing policy at the local, state and federal levels. While setbacks and challenges persist, LDF’s promising overview lists dozens of reforms, initiatives, and court actions, and concludes with four things everyone can do to honor Floyd’s memory.

Powerful Young Voice

Darnella Frazier, the 17-year-old whose video footage of George Floyd being killed went viral and played a significant role in the prosecution’s murder case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, posted a statement on Facebook on May 25. Frazier titled her powerful words, 1 Year Anniversary. Her post is stirring and profound and makes clear that Frazier has talent for expressing herself with words. “A year ago, today I witnessed a murder. The victim’s name was George Floyd,” she said in part. “Although this wasn’t the first time, I’ve seen a black man get killed at the hands of the police, this is the first time I witnessed it happen in front of me. Right in front of my eyes, a few feet away. I didn’t know this man from a can of paint, but I knew his life mattered. I knew that he was in pain. I knew that he was another black man in danger with no power.”


The Real George Floyd

The Life of George Floyd is an eye-opening report designed to provide an understanding about George Floyd, the man rather than the symbol he has become. The story explores his heart-warming personality, his background, and his family and takes an unvarnished look at his criminal history. Produced by Post Reports, The Washington Post’s Podcast, it originally aired last October and was re-broadcast on WAMU, the local NPR station in Washington D.C., on May 25.

Among the revelations in the hour-long episode, Floyd’s aunt Angela Harrelson (his mother’s sister) talks about the family’s century-long history in North Carolina, where Floyd was born. Hillery Thomas Stewart, her great grandfather was born enslaved and at age 8 received his free papers, she said. By 21, he owned 500 acres of land, but his success was short-lived and he lost the property to white settlers. Harrelson said: “The story was he couldn’t read and write—through deception and fraud of the white officials, taxes and things, he didn’t have a chance. He did not have a chance.”

In summary, editor Martine Powers said: “When you start to piece together all these memories, you get a fuller picture of who this man was, but you also get a fuller understanding of why his story has mattered to so many people.”


“When you start to piece together all these memories, you get a fuller picture of who this man was, but you also get a fuller understanding of why his story has mattered to so many people.”
— Washington Post Podcast Editor Martine Powers

Focusing on the first 20 years of the 21st century, The First Twenty “explores events that have caused a shift in the collective American consciousness with artists as your guides.” A short introduction to the series can be found here and Episode 2 (above) pays tribute to George Floyd. | Video by All Art

Artistic Tribute to George Floyd

On PBS, a new series called The First Twenty, explores the new millennium through the arts. Hosted by Michael Mwenso, the series devoted an episode to George Floyd’s legacy that debuted May 25. “In the spirit of Black artistic expression through music and conversation… I’m gonna explore a few of my favorite Black artists to examine how the death of this man has impacted all of us,” Mwenso said. The tribute featured curators Larry Ossei-Mensah and Destinee Ross-Sutton, along with poet Harold Green, and several musical performances, including Mwenso and his band The Shakes. CT


ALSO ON MAY 25 Kristen Clarke was sworn in as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the Department of Justice by Vice President Kamala Harris. The civil rights division deals with a variety of issues, including police conduct and reform, voting rights, and the rise of white supremacist groups. Clarke is the first woman and first Black woman to serve in the position, given Lani Guinier’s nomination by Bill Clinton went awry in 1993.


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