George Floyd and Daunte Wright now part of Minnesota history

Demonstrators hold portraits of George Floyd and Daunte Wright
Demonstrators hold portraits of George Floyd and Daunte Wright outside the Brooklyn Center Police Department in Brooklyn Center, Minn., last week.
Kerem Yucel | AFP via Getty Images file

How will George Floyd and Daunte Wright be remembered? Will the conviction of Derek Chauvin on murder charges be taught as part of Minnesota history, and even U.S. history, in years to come?

It’s too early to know the full impact of one of Minnesota’s most significant trials, but Floyd’s killing last May clearly stoked the swelling anger over the number of Black men killed by police in the United States. 

The viral video of former Minneapolis police officer Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck led to protests in the Twin Cities and across the country. Live streaming of the trial gave Americans unprecedented access to emotional testimony from bystanders, a police chief testifying against a former officer and ultimately the reading of a guilty verdict in the first second-degree murder conviction of a Minnesota police officer for killing a civilian on the job. 

On the heels of the verdict came Thursday’s funeral of Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Black man killed in Brooklyn Center during a traffic stop by a police officer who thought she was firing her Taser.

How has the killings of these two Black men in Minnesota raised awareness of inequality and strengthened calls for police reform? And how are young people reacting to the moment?

Duchess Harris, a professor of political science and American studies at Macalester College, told host Angela Davis she believes the release of the bystander footage of George Floyd’s killing was a major historical moment.

“This is the video that changed the world,” she said.

Harris thinks the video could attain the same level of significance in American history and education as the searing 1955 photo of Emmett Till first published in Jet magazine, a powerful image that also changed a generation.

Keith Mayes, a professor of African American and African studies at the University of Minnesota, told Davis that social movements teach valuable lessons not only to future generations but also to the people who live through them.

“It’s not about disorder; it’s about education,” Mayes said. “Social movements have the power to educate.”


  • Duchess Harris is a professor of political science and American Studies at Macalester College in St. Paul.

  • Keith Mayes is a professor of African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota.

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