Jeffery Shaun King (born September 17, 1979) is an American writer and civil rights activist. He is noted for his use of social media to promote social causes, including the Black Lives Matter movement. He is a columnist for The Intercept. Previously, he was a contributing writer for Daily Kos and a political commentator for The Young Turks. He co-founded the Real Justice PAC in February 2018, which supports progressive candidates running for district attorney offices in 2018.
King grew up in Versailles, Kentucky. He was raised by his white mother and white presumptive father, Jeffrey King. King grew up believing what his mother later confirmed to him: that his biological father was a light-skinned black man. According to a local police detective, those who knew him were aware of his biracial heritage: “Anyone from around here who knew him knew he was mixed.” King attended Huntertown Elementary School and Woodford County High School.
King attended Morehouse College, a private, historically black men’s college in Atlanta, Georgia, where he majored in history. Midway through his education, he had to take a medical leave. Upon his return, he was named an Oprah Winfrey Scholar by Morehouse. Oprah scholars are given financial support and are required to maintain their grade point average and do community service. King fulfilled his community service requirement by tutoring and mentoring students at Franklin Lebby Stanton Elementary School in Atlanta. After graduation in 2002, King was a research assistant for Morehouse history professor Alton Hornsby Jr.
After graduation, King was a high school civics teacher for about a year and then became a motivational speaker for Atlanta’s juvenile justice system. He was then a pastor at Total Grace Christian Center in DeKalb County, Georgia. In 2008, King founded a church in Atlanta called “Courageous Church”. He made use of social media to recruit new members and was known as the “Facebook Pastor”.
In March 2010, while still a pastor, he founded aHomeinHaiti.org as a subsidiary of Courageous Church and used eBay and Twitter to raise $1.5 million to send tents to Haiti after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria was a spokesperson for the campaign. This inspired him to launch TwitChange.com, a charity auction site. TwitChange held Twitter charity auctions on eBay where celebrities offered to retweet winning bidders’ tweets in exchange for support of a particular charity. One campaign raised funds to build an orphanage in Bonneau, Haiti. In 2010, TwitChange won the Mashable Award for “Most Creative Social Good Campaign”.
In 2012, King resigned from the Courageous Church, citing personal stress and disillusionment. That same year he and web designer Chad Kellough founded HopeMob.org, a charity site that used voting to select a particular person’s story and then raise money for that story until its goal was met. The money went to an organization which provided for the person’s needs, not to the person individually. After one goal was met, the next story in line would then get funds raised. HopeMob initially raised funds to build their platform in January 2012 on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. Their campaign raised about $125,000.
In 2014, he and two co-inventors, Ray Lee and Vincent Tuscano, were awarded U.S. patent 8,667,075, “System and method for implementing a subscription-based social media platform”. This patent was filed by the startup he founded, @Upfront.
In 2015, he wrote the self-help book The Power of 100.
On October 2, 2015, the New York Daily News announced that it was hiring King to the new position of senior justice writer, where he would focus on reporting and commentary on social justice, police brutality and race relations. He left the Daily News in August 2017.
On December 28, 2016, Cenk Uygur announced that King had been hired as a political commentator for The Young Turks.
King has written extensively about incidents in the Black Lives Matter movement, gaining prominence during the events following the shooting of Michael Brown. King wrote an article analyzing the Brown crime scene and argued that the evidence suggested that officer Darren Wilson’s life was not in danger during the shooting.
King became a contributing blogger for the politically liberal website the Daily Kos in September 2014. His contributions to the website have focused on civil rights, violence in Ferguson, Missouri, and Charleston, South Carolina, as well as allegations of police brutality, especially toward the black community. In August 2015, he launched Justice Together, an organization to identify police brutality and lobby local politicians for change. To the surprise of many of the group’s members, King unilaterally disbanded the organization in the fall of 2016.
King announced that he would leave the Democratic Party after the 2016 election due to allegations of corruption and lack of neutrality in the party during the primaries.
In September 2016, King proposed an Injustice Boycott for later that year in December.
In an October 11, 2017 article in The Washington Post, Shaun King was credited with leading a successful months-long and far-reaching social media campaign which led to the identification and arrest of three of the men behind the August 12, 2017 assault on DeAndre Harris during the Unite the Right rally. 18-year-old Daniel P. Borden from Mason, Ohio; 33-year-old Alex Michael Ramos of Marietta, Georgia; and 22-year-old Jacob Scott Goodwin from Ward, Arkansas, were arrested for the parking garage beating. The Washington Post described how the attack on Harris became a “symbol of the violence and racial enmity that engulfed Charlottesville when white supremacists, Klan members, and neo-Nazis clashed with counter-protesters.” Two were subsequently convicted while two others are awaiting trial.
Harris was later served with an arrest warrant sought by 48-year-old Harold Crews, North Carolina’s League of the South chairman and a real estate lawyer, who alleged that Harris had hit him with a flashlight during an altercation prior to the Market Street Garage brawl. Crews used a law by which alleged crime victims who have filed a police report can get a warrant if they can convince a local judge to sign it. In the interview with the Washington Post, King responded, “I am disgusted that the justice system bent over backwards to issue a warrant for one of the primary victims of that day, when I and others had to fight like hell to get that same justice system to prosecute people who were vicious in their attacks against Harris and others. Now, we’re seeing white supremacists celebrate on social media, bragging about Harris’s arrest. They’re hailing this as a victory.” Harris was later acquitted of misdemeanor assault by a local judge.
On May 20, 2018, King accused a white Texas state trooper of raping Sherita Dixon-Cole, an African-American human resources professional. The trooper arrested Dixon-Cole for drunk driving and King based his accusation off of statements she and her family made to King and Philadelphia lawyer S. Lee Merritt. King’s social media posts, which identified the trooper by name, went viral and threats were made against the arresting trooper as well as another trooper with the same last name. The Texas Department of Public Safety released nearly two hours of body cam footage on May 22 that exonerated the trooper. Merritt subsequently apologized for the false accusation and national attention he had brought to the case. King deleted his social media posts after the body cam video was released.