This Day in Black History: Feb. 26, 2012

Florida teenager Trayvon Martin is shot and killed.

Posted: 02/26/2014 12:00 AM EST

There's no telling what Trayvon Martin could have become and sadly the world will never know. But his tragic death at the hands of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman on Feb. 26, 2012, will forever be a part of the nation's still-controversial history in race relations.

Just 17, Trayvon was walking back to his father's home in Sanford, Florida, after buying a bag of Skittles and a soft drink when he encountered Zimmerman, 28, who was patrolling the neighborhood. Zimmerman, who is widely believed to have racially profiled the hoodie-wearing teen, called the Sanford police department's non-emergency line to report that the "Black male" looked suspicious.

Even though the dispatcher told him to not follow the boy, he ignored their advice and entered into an altercation with him. Claiming he felt threatened and buoyed by the state's "Stand Your Ground" law, Zimmerman shot the teenager. Six weeks passed before he was arrested. On July 13, 2013, a jury found Zimmerman not guilty of any crime.

The tragedy roiled the nation and sparked a wide-ranging debate over the dangers of "Stand Your Ground" laws in states around the U.S and a Justice for Trayvon movement.

"If [he] was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt threatened?" President Obama said during moving remarks at a press conference in response to the Zimmerman verdict. "And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws."

Trayvon's parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, have created a foundation in their son's honor "to create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of the victims and to provide support and advocacy for those families."

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Follow Joyce Jones on Twitter: @BETpolitichick

(Photo: Courtesy Trayvon Martin Family via Facebook)

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