Blackout, Black Excellence, Black Power: Strategies of Everyday Online Activism on Black Tumblr

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this essay, I analyze the discursive practices of one network of Tumblr users—Black Tumblr—and the strategies that they use to engage in what I term “everyday online activism.” In contrast to the collective activism campaigns of Twitter, Black Tumblr users are not striving toward a single shared tangible goal (e.g., policy reform); rather, they utilize the affordances of the platform—such as combining image and text, reblogging, and commenting—to do the groundwork that makes collective activism possible. That is, Black Tumblr, by maintaining a visible online presence through everyday discourse practices, raises awareness of issues that must be acknowledged before policy can have any meaningful social change for Black people offline. Here, I discuss four primary ways that Black Tumblr engages in everyday online activism: (1) challenging hegemonic negative ideologies about Black people, (2) promoting dialogue about underdiscussed issues, (3) bringing attention to hypocritical or insensitive actions and beliefs that negatively affect Black individuals, and (4) promoting positive representations of Black people. These four strategies are Black Tumblr–specific forms of widespread Tumblr discourse and cultural practices, which I describe briefly below.

After a discussion of my experience as a Tumblr user and ethnographer, I provide a brief overview of general Tumblr features, followed by an elaboration on the concept of “everyday online activism.” I then describe the Black Tumblr user network and analyze examples of the four strategies stated above.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationa tumblr book
Subtitle of host publicationplatform and cultures
EditorsAllison McCracken, Alexander Cho, Louisa Stein, Indira Neill Hoch
PublisherUniversity of Michigan Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780472901296
ISBN (Print)9780472074563, 9780472054565
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes


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