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Inspiring Thursday: Angela Davis

“The roots of sexism and homophobia are found in the same economic and political institutions that serve as the foundation of racism in this country and, more often than not, the same extremist circles that inflict violence on people of color are responsible for the eruptions of violence inspired by sexist and homophobic biases. Our political activism must clearly manifest our understanding of these connections.”
― Angela Y. Davis, Women, Culture & Politics

Angela Davis, an inspiring author, professor and activist, championed the cause for prison reform and the elimination of institutional racism. Davis was an honorary co-chair of the 2017 Women´s March on Washington and currently is a Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Angela Yvonne Davis was born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama (USA) in a middle-class family. She lived in the “Dynamite Hill” historically named after the bombings of the Klu Klux Klan on African American homes. She experienced very early on the consequences of racial prejudice and inequality. Her father owned a service station and her mother taught elementary school and was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). As a teenager, she organized interracial study groups which were broken up by police forces. Before attending college, Davis went to study in Germany for two years, New York and Paris at la Sorbonne.

Davis went to Brandeis University in Massachusetts where she majored in philosophy before entering the University of California, San Diego, where she became a doctoral candidate under Herbert Marcuse, a prominent American political philosopher.

While in California, she associated with several groups including the self-defence revolutionary political organisation – Black Panthers. She rapidly joined the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black branch of the Communist Party. Her affiliation with the communist party caused her to be fired from a teaching position at the University of California in Los Angeles.

Davis is known for her strong support of three prison inmates of Soledad Prison. The three men were John W. Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo and George Lester Jackson. During Jackson’s trial in the 1970s at the Marin County Courthouse, an escape attempt conspiracy spread nationally and Davis was accused of complicity. Two pieces of evidence were used against her: the guns used were registered under her name, and she was reportedly in love with Jackson. She quickly became the most sought-after criminal by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Davis spent 18 months in jail before being acquitted in June 1972 by an all-white jury. During this period, Davis penned entirely by hand her first book, If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance.

Davis turbulent passed has not stopped her from being an eminent lecturer on History of Consciousness on the West Coast. Her topics of expertise being race, criminal justice system and women´s rights.

She is a renowned author of Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974), Women, Race, and Class (1980), Women, Culture and Politics (1989), Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003), Abolition Democracy (2005), and The Meaning of Freedom (2012).

Davis also continued her political involvement when she ran for the position of vice president for the Communist Party in 1980 and 1984. When the Soviet Union collapsed, her engagement lessened.

In 2017, Davis was a speaker for the Women´s March on Washington after Donald Trump´s inauguration. The march gathered over 500,000 protesters against the newly elected president.

“This is a women’s march and this women’s march represents the promise of feminism as against the pernicious powers of state violence. An inclusive and intersectional feminism that calls upon all of us to join the resistance to racism, to Islamophobia, to antisemitism, to misogyny, to capitalist exploitation.” (Angela Davis, Women´s March 2017).

Written by Claire Davis, WAVE Intern

Sources

“Angela Davis.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 9 July 2019, www.biography.com/activist/angela-davis.

“Angela Davis’s Biography.” The HistoryMakers, www.thehistorymakers.org/biography/angela-davis-40.

Ben Rosenfeld Daily News Editor. “Author and Activist Angela Davis Named Keynote Speaker of 2020 MLK Symposium.” The Michigan Daily, www.michigandaily.com/section/campus-life/author-and-activist-angela-davis-named-keynote-speaker-2020-mlk-symposium.

Davis, Angela. “Angela Davis’ Women’s March Speech: ‘This Country’s History Cannot Be Deleted’.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 22 Jan. 2017, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/22/angela-davis-womens-march-speech-countrys-history-cannot-be-deleted.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Angela Davis.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 16 Apr. 2019, www.britannica.com/biography/Angela-Davis.