Black Networks Matter

Matthew David Simonson, Ray Block Jr, James N. Druckman, Katherine Ognyanova, David M. J. Lazer
Cambridge University Press
February 15, 2024


Scholars have long recognized that interpersonal networks play a role in mobilizing social movements. Yet, many questions remain. This Element addresses these questions by theorizing about three dimensions of ties: emotionally strong or weak, movement insider or outsider, and ingroup or cross-cleavage. The survey data on the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests show that weak and cross-cleavage ties among outsiders enabled the movement to evolve from a small provocation into a massive national mobilization. In particular, the authors find that Black people mobilized one another through social media and spurred their non-Black friends to protest by sharing their personal encounters with racism. These results depart from the established literature regarding the civil rights movement that emphasizes strong, movement-internal, and racially homogenous ties. The networks that mobilize appear to have changed in the social media era. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.

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