Minnesota teenager Darnella Frazier, who filmed the death of George Floyd, received a special citation by the Pulitzer Board on Friday. June 11. 

Aminda Marqués González, co-chair of the Pulitzer Prize Board, said they chose to honor Frazier “for courageously recording the murder of Floyd.”

The video, which went viral, “spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice,” González said. 

Darnella, then 17 years old, recorded Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020. Her video showed former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds.

The video became a critical piece of evidence at Chauvin’s murder trial earlier this year and would be repeatedly played over the course of the trial. A jury found him guilty of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Frazier has received widespread praise for her actions from people including President Biden, film director Spike Lee, Anita Hill.

The awards, administered by Columbia University, recognize reporting in newspapers, magazines and digital news outlets. This year’s announcement, originally scheduled for April 19, would be postponed to June so that the board members could meet in-person to evaluate the entries rather than choosing the winners remotely.

Frazier, an African-American youth, recently said she was proud of herself for recording Floyd’s murder even though it became a “traumatic life-changing experience” for her in the aftermath.

“A lot of people call me a hero even though I don’t see myself as one,” Darnella said on Twitter. “I was just in the right place at the right time. Behind this smile, behind these awards, behind the publicity, I’m a girl trying to heal from something I am reminded of every day.  #DarnellaFrazier #Pulitzer

Sherrilyn Hill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., tweeted her congratulations to Darnella.  

“How wonderful, extraordinary and painful. Well done, Pulitzer Committee. One day our children will get to be children. Until then, reward their courage & contribution to truth-telling.” 

The three topics which dominated the 2020 news cycle and impacted every aspect of life including how newsrooms operated, the pandemic, racial injustice and the presidential election, counted among the areas honored with Pulitzer Prizes – the most prestigious awards in American journalism. 

Dolores Barclay, an adjunct faculty member at Columbia Journalism School and a former National Writer and Arts Editor of The Associated Press, said that while she likens the role which people like Darnella play more as an observer and not a reporter, their participation continues to provide crucial support to journalists in their quest to report the truth. 

St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Melvin Carter earlier suggested Darnella should win the Pulitzer Prize for taping the arrest that would later go viral.

“All of this,” Carter tweeted Friday in response to the news that Frazier had been awarded a special citation. “So well deserved.”

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