When you find out that Angela Davis has had five songs written for and about her by people that include The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and John Lennon, you realise how much of an impact this political activist, academic, and author has had. We have chosen her as our Woman of the Week – certainly a woman that is a leader in her field whether she intended it or not!
“I never saw myself as an individual who had any particular leadership powers.” Angela Davis
Through her activism and scholarship over the last decades, Angela Davis has been deeply involved in a quest for social justice. Her work as an educator – both at the university level and in the larger public sphere – has always emphasised the importance of building communities of struggle for economic, racial, and gender justice.
She appeared recently at Women of the World #WOWLDN 2017 where she spoke to Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director Jude Kelly about women, race and class in the post-Trump era. Davis is a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era. In her talk she discusses we have to ultimately believe that we can change the world. She says; “I’m not a feminist! I’m a revolutionary black woman! But black women over the years have re-defined the project of feminism. Feminism that is on the rise is an intersectional feminism. It’s not a glass ceiling feminism…..metaphors matter.” “Progressive men need to take the initiatives themselves. They do not need to be invited!”
A prominent counterculture activist, Angela Davis was the radical leader of the Communist Party USA in the 1960s and involved in the revolutionary nationalist and socialist organisation the Black Panther Party. She was also a professor in the History of Consciousness and a director of Feminist Studies. She co-founded Critical Resistance, an organisation working to abolish the prison-industrial complex.
She grew up surrounded by communist organisers and thinkers who significantly influenced her intellectual development. Born in Birmingham Alabama, on January 26, 1944, she grew up in “Dynamite Hill” so named for the bombings of houses of middle-class blacks by the Klu Klux Klan. Her mother, Sallye Bell Davis, was a national officer and leading organiser of the Southern Negro Youth Congress, trying to build alliances among African Americans in the South.
In high school, Davis was accepted at a Quaker program that placed black students from the South in integrated schools in the North. There she was introduced to socialism and communism, and recruited by a Communist youth group, Advance.
After winning a scholarship to University in Massachusetts she was one of only three black students. It was here she encountered the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse at a rally during the Cuban Missile Crisis and said, “Herbert Marcuse taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary.”
Outside of academia, Davis became a strong supporter of three prison inmates of Soledad Prison known as the Soledad brothers who were accused of killing a prison guard after several African-American inmates had been killed in a fight by another guard. Some thought these prisoners were being used as scapegoats because of the political work within the prison.
During Jackson’s trial in August 1970, an escape attempt was made and several people in the courtroom were killed. Davis was brought up on several charges, including murder, for her alleged part in the event. There were two main pieces of evidence used at trial: the guns used were registered to her, and she was reportedly in love with Jackson. After spending roughly 18 months in jail, Davis was acquitted in June 1972.
Former California Governor Ronald Reagan once vowed that Angela Davis would never again teach in the University of California system. But during the last twenty-five years, Professor Angela Davis has lectured in all of the fifty United States, as well as in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the former Soviet Union. Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, and she is the author of nine books.
Today she is Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies Departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1994, she received the distinguished honour of an appointment to the University of California Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies.
Most recently she led women’s marches against Trump saying in an article in The Guardian; “Over the next months and years we will be called upon to intensify our demands for social justice to become more militant in our defence of vulnerable populations. Those who still defend the supremacy of white male hetero-patriarchy had better watch out. The next 1,459 days of the Trump administration will be 1,459 days of resistance: resistance on the ground, resistance in the classrooms, resistance on the job, resistance in our art and in our music.
Facts about Angela Davis
Angel Davis had a good relationship with Black Panther Party. It is due to the fact that she shared value during the civil right movement. However, Davis was not a party member.
She liked to make researches which focused on the critical theory, African American studies, feminism, popular music, history of punishment and prison, Marxism and social consciousness.
Ben Davis was her famous brother. In the end of 1960s and the beginning of 1970s, he was the defensive back for Cleveland browns and Detroit Lions.
Angela had other siblings besides Ben Davis. Both were Fania Davis Jordan and Reginald Davis.
Books by Angela Davis
Prison Industrial Complex Spoken Word CD.
If They Come in the Morning 1971
Violence Against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism
Women, Race and Class 1983
An Autobiography 1989
Women, Culture and Politics 1990
Blues Legacies and Black Feminism 1998
Are Prisons Obsolete? 2003
Aptheker, Bettina The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis 1999.
Timothy, Mary Jury Woman: The Story of the Trial of Angela Y. Davis