Story at a glance

  • Frazier will receive the PEN/Benenson Courage Award.
  • She captured the police killing of George Floyd on video and posted to social media.
  • The video sparked demonstrations nationwide against police brutality and racial inequity.

The young woman who filmed the police killing of George Floyd in May will be honored by the literary and human rights group PEN America, the nonprofit organization announced Tuesday. 

Darnella Frazier, 17, will be presented with the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award during the organization’s virtual gala celebration on Dec. 8. 


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“With nothing more than a cell phone and sheer guts, Darnella changed the course of history in this country, sparking a bold movement demanding an end to systemic anti-Black racism and violence at the hands of police,” PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel said in a statement. 

“Without Darnella’s presence of mind and readiness to risk her own safety and wellbeing, we may never have known the truth about George Floyd’s murder,” Nossel said. 

On May 25, the teen was walking to a store near her home in Minneapolis when she saw Floyd, an unarmed Black man, being restrained by several police officers in the street. 

She quickly pulled out her phone to record the incident and captured now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd pleaded with the officer, saying he could not breathe. 

Floyd, 46, eventually lost consciousness and died. 

Frazier’s video quickly spread across social media, sparking widespread outrage and months of nationwide demonstrations against racial injustice and police brutality. A major investigation into Floyd’s death resulted in Chauvin’s arrest and the dismissal of three other officers involved. 

Floyd’s death, along with the killings of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black Americans, has fueled a fresh wave of activism and has brought the issue of racial inequality in America to the forefront of the national conversation. 

Frazier will share the award with Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who was ousted out of her role by the Trump administration.


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Published on Oct 27, 2020