UPDATE: Jun. 19, 2022, 1:25 p.m. EDT This story has been updated for clarity and sensitivity
Black Twitter is the beating heart of Twitter overall. If you have a favorite meme, joke, or even way to use Twitter, it most likely started on Black Twitter.
There is no Twitter — at least not the version we know — without Black Twitter. Since it’s Juneteenth — an important holiday in American and Black history, seen by many as the real day of emancipation for slaves — we decided to celebrate Black Twitter.
The social media giant, for better or worse, is a major part of our world. It has an outsized effect on the news and the discourse at large. And that means Black Twitter can shape so much about what happens in our culture. That in mind, we collected a mix of funny, serious, and important moments in Black Twitter history.
1. Crying Michael Jordan
No meme had as long a life as Crying Michael Jordan. The world-famous basketball player wept at his 2009 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame. It became a meme around 2012 and Black Twitter especially kept it going until at least 2018 or so. There was just something so funny about the GOAT’s face superimposed where it wasn’t supposed to be. And it worked for so many different occasions. The meme that wouldn’t quit. It’s so creative and has never disappointed.
2. December 21, 2020
The meme first began with a tweet from @lottidot, who connected the date with the timing of the Coronavirus vaccine. After making claims about the disease, the Twitter user said the COVID-19 vaccine was being created so that the U.S. government could change Americans’ genetic codes. When asked how the government would benefit from doing that, she replied:
There’s just never been a funnier thing to imagine as Black Twitter joked for weeks about their incoming superpowers.
3. Plate roasting
All I can say is: Black Twitter is doing good deeds by roasting people who do not season their food. Thanksgiving, especially, is a hell of a time. Black Twitter will let you know if your plate needs some work.
If you want to see this work in action, just check the replies to this infamous tweet. Tom Rodgers learned about seasoning this day.
4. Redefining citizen journalism and activism through #BlackLivesMatter
Black Twitter forever changed Twitter, how it is used, and its power. Twitter, and its now-defunct service Vine, served as a clearinghouse and platform for video evidence during the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri after police killed a teenager named Mike Brown. People on the ground were able to show how things were and not how authorities wanted you to believe they were. The Black Lives Matter movement, in many ways, was formed online. It obviously physically began in the real world, on the streets, but the ability to organize and document the movement online was huge.
And since Ferguson, pretty much every major protest and news event is covered live by normal folks on the ground.
5. Dismantling Kendall Jenner’s Pepsi commercial
Remember the awful commercial where Kendall Jenner solved institutional racism and police brutality by giving a cop a Pepsi? Yikes.
Black Twitter immediately blasted the ad as trivializing and tone-deaf. And how the real fight, as Ferguson and elsewhere showed, was extremely serious and dangerous.
6. The Lemonade release jokes
The release of Beyoncé’s seminal work Lemonade brought together a lot of what makes Black Twitter great. There were jokes and thoughtful reviews and even more jokes.
The 2016 visual album had overt references to alleged infidelity by Jay Z. It was not a good time to be the Brooklyn-born rapper online.
7. Meet me in Temecula
This might be my favorite moment in Twitter history, period. NBA Twitter stalwart @SnottieDrippen (real name James Holas) got a dude named @MyTweetsRealAF to drive nearly an hour to Temecula, California in an effort to fight him over an argument about Kobe Bryant. Of course, Snottie was in Arizona at the time and just leading this very angry person on.
It was the best-ever representation of how silly Twitter fights get — there was a whole freaking diss track recorded over it. Meet me in Temecula has since kind of become a shorthand way to reference an incredibly dumb online fight.
In January 2015, the Oscars, for the second year running, all 20 best actor nominations were white people. The New York Times does a good job showing that, in that moment, Black Twitter changed the prestigious awards show forever. One person in particular, April Reign, started the hashtag that helped the world see how biased it could be.
9. The Verzuz revolution
Verzuz, formed by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, first aired on Instagram Live. But it was on Twitter where the debates and commentary took place. Born during the quarantine era of the pandemic, Verzuz pitted great, Black artist’s discography’s against one another: Jill Scott vs. Erykah Badu, Gladys Knight vs. Patti LaBelle, Nelly vs. Ludacris, etc. They go song for song, trying to outdo one another with their work and their energy. It’s entertaining and fun as hell.
It’s not a ‘best of Black Twitter’ list without at least honoring some all-time tweets from recent memory. Some of the few bright spots we have currently are Black people joking about WW3 or the pro-bono law work Black Twitter has done for a very petty elephant.