Darnella Frazier, the teenager who recorded the murder of George Floyd on her cellphone, has been awarded a special citation by the Pulitzer Prize board.

The Pulitzer board said Frazier won the citation “for courageously recording the murder of George Floyd, a video that spurred protests against police brutality around the world, highlighting the crucial role of citizens in journalists’ quest for truth and justice.”

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Frazier, then 17, was walking her 9-year-old cousin to the store on May 25, 2020, when she saw a white police officer forcibly detaining Floyd. She hit the record button on her cellphone and didn’t stop for nearly 10 minutes as she captured Floyd’s dying moments under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Without her video, the police might have been able to cover up the cause of Floyd’s death. The initial police account said the officers noted that Floyd  “appeared to be suffering medical distress” after he was handcuffed and was taken to a hospital where he died.

Frazier later testified at Chauvin’s trial, but it was her video that was the strongest piece of evidence against the police officer.

Nieman Foundation curator Ann Marie Lipinski tweeted after Chauvin’s murder conviction that Frazier never intended to produce what is “one of the most important civil rights documents in a generation.”

Frazier did not seek the limelight and turned down media requests for interviews. In a virtual ceremony last December, filmmaker Spike Lee presented Frazier with the 2020 PEN/Benenson Courage Award.  PEN is an organization that advocates for freedom of expression rights.

Frazier also posted a lengthy statement to Facebook on the anniversary of Floyd’s death in May. She wrote that she still holds “the weight and trauma of what I witnessed a year ago.”

“A lot of people call me a hero even though I don’t see myself as one. I was just in the right place at the right time,” she wrote. “Behind this smile, behind these awards, behind the publicity, I’m a girl trying to heal from something I am reminded of every day. Everyone talks about the girl who recorded George Floyd‘s death, but to actually be her is a different story.”

But “even though this was a traumatic life-changing experience for me, I’m proud of myself,” she wrote. “If it weren’t for my video, the world wouldn’t have known the truth. I own that.”

Her Facebook statement was read on MSNBC’s “The Last Word” with Lawrence O’Donnell by author and poet Caroline Randall Williams.

The Pulitzer board only gives out special citations when it deems it appropriate. rarely gives out special citations. Last year, the board awarded investigative journalist Ida B. Wells a posthumous citation for her “outstanding and courageous” reporting on the lynchings of Black men in the South after the Civil War. 

Here is some reaction to the Pulitzer citation for Frazier:

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(Ifill is the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund.) 

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