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Angela Davis

Angela Davis

Davis in October 2006
Born Angela Yvonne Davis
January 26, 1944 (1944-01-26) (age 66)
Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.
Ethnicity African-American
Citizenship United States
Alma mater Brandeis University, B.A., (1965)
University of California, San Diego, M.A.
Humboldt University, Ph.D., Philosophy
Occupation Activist, Educator, Author
Employer University of California, Santa Cruz, (retired)
Influenced by Herbert Marcuse
Political party Communist (until the early 1990s)
Spouse Hilton Braithwaite div.[1]
Relatives Ben Davis, brother

Angela Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, educator and author. Davis was most politically active during the late 1960s through the 1970s and was associated with the Communist Party USA, the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party. Prisoner rights have been among her continuing interests; she is the founder of "Critical Resistance", an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She is presently a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is the former the director of the university's Feminist Studies department.[2] Her research interests are in feminism, African American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music and social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons.[3]

Her membership in the Communist Party led to Ronald Reagan's request in 1969 to have her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California. She was tried and acquitted of suspected involvement in the Soledad brothers' August 1970 abduction and murder of Judge Harold Haley in Marin County, California.

She was twice a candidate for Vice President on the Communist Party USA ticket during the 1980s. In the early 1990s she moved from party communism to other forms of political commitment, and she has identified herself as a democratic socialist.


[edit] Early life

Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama. Her father, Frank Davis, was a graduate of St. Augustine's College, a traditionally black college in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was briefly a high school history teacher. Her father later owned and operated a service station in the black section of Birmingham. Her mother, Sallye Davis, a graduate of Miles College in Birmingham, was an elementary school teacher.

The family lived in the "Dynamite Hill" neighborhood, which was marked by racial conflict. Davis was occasionally able to spend time on her uncle's farm and with friends in New York City.[4] Her brother, Ben Davis, played defensive back for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Davis also has another brother, Reginald Davis, and sister, Fania Davis Jordan.[5]

Davis attended Carrie A. Tuggle School, a black elementary school; later she attended Parker Annex, a middle-school branch of Parker High School in Birmingham. By her junior year, she had applied to and was accepted at an American Friends Service Committee program that placed black students from the South in integrated schools in the North. She chose Elisabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village in New York City. There she was introduced to socialism and communism and was recruited by a Communist youth group, Advance. She also met children of some of the leaders of the Communist Party USA, including her lifelong friend, Bettina Aptheker.

[edit] Education

[edit] Brandeis University

Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she was one of three black students in her freshman class. She initially felt alienated by the isolation of the campus (at that time she was interested in Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre), but she soon made friends with foreign students. She encountered the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse at a rally during the Cuban Missile Crisis and then became his student. In a television interview, she said "Herbert Marcuse taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary."[6] She worked part time to earn enough money to travel to France and Switzerland before she went on to attend the eighth World Festival of Youth and Students in Helsinki, Finland. She returned home in 1963 to an FBI interview about her attendance at the Communist-sponsored festival.[7]

During her second year at Brandeis, she decided to major in French and continued her intensive study of Sartre. Davis was accepted by the Hamilton College Junior Year in France Program and, she wrote in her autobiography, she managed to talk Brandeis into extending financial support via her scholarship. Classes were initially at Biarritz and later at the Sorbonne. In Paris, she and other students lived with a French family. It was at Biarritz that she received news of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, committed by the members of the Ku Klux Klan, an occasion that deeply affected her, because, she wrote, she was personally acquainted with the eight young victims.[7]

Nearing completion of her degree in French, Davis realized her major interest was in philosophy. She became particularly interested in the ideas of Herbert Marcuse and on her return to Brandeis she sat in on his course without asking for credit. Marcuse, she wrote, turned out to be approachable and helpful. Davis began making plans to attend the University of Frankfurt for graduate work in philosophy. In 1965 she graduated magna cum laude, a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[7]

[edit] University of Frankfurt

In Germany, with just a stipend of $100 a month, she first lived with a German family. Later, she moved with a group of students into a loft in an old factory. After visiting East Berlin during the annual May Day celebration, she felt that the East German government was dealing better with the residual effects of fascism than were the West Germans. Many of her roommates were active in the radical Socialist German Student Union (SDS), and Davis participated in SDS actions, but events unfolding in the United States ' the formation of the Black Panther Party and transformation of SNCC, for example ' impelled her to return to the US.[7]

[edit] Postgraduate work

Marcuse, in the meantime, had moved to the University of California, San Diego, and Davis followed him there after her two years in Frankfurt.[7]

Returning to the United States, Davis stopped in London to attend a conference on "The Dialectics of Liberation." The black contingent at the conference included the American Stokely Carmichael and the British Michael X. Although moved by Carmichael's fiery rhetoric, she was disappointed by her colleagues' black nationalist sentiments and their rejection of communism as a "white man's thing." She held the view that any nationalism was a barrier to grappling with the underlying issue, capitalist domination of working people of all races.[8]

Davis earned her master's degree from the San Diego campus and her doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University in East Berlin.[9][citation needed]

[edit] UCLA

Davis was an acting assistant professor in the philosophy department at the UCLA, beginning in 1969. At that time, she also was known as a radical feminist and activist, a member of the Communist Party USA and an associate of the Black Panther Party.[2]

The Board of Regents of the University of California, urged by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan, fired her from her job in 1969 because of her membership in the Communist Party. The Board of Regents was censured by the American Association of University Professors for their failure to reappoint Davis after her teaching contract expired.[10] She was later rehired after legal action was taken.[citation needed]

[edit] Arrest and trial

On August 7, 1970, Superior Court Judge Harold Haley, along with several other hostages, was abducted from his Marin County, California, courtroom and murdered during an effort to free a convict.[11]

The firearms used in the attack were purchased by Angela Davis, including the shotgun used to kill Haley, which had been purchased only two days prior and sawed-off.[11] Numerous letters were found in the prison cell of one of the murderers that were written by Angela Davis as well. The California warrant issued for Davis charged her as an accomplice to conspiracy, kidnapping, and homicide. On August 18, 1970, Davis became the third woman and the 309th person to appear on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List.[12]

Davis became a fugitive and fled California. She evaded the police for more than two months before being captured in New York City. John Abt, general counsel of the Communist Party USA, was one of the first attorneys to represent Davis for her alleged involvement in the shootings.[13] While being held in the Women's Detention Center there, she was initially segregated from the general population, but with the help of her legal team soon obtained a federal court order to get out of the segregated area.[14]

Her bail was posted by Rodger McAfee, a dairy farmer from Caruthers, California. Portions of her legal defense expenses were paid for by the Presbyterian Church (UPCNA).[15]

During the trial, Davis was sketched by courtroom artists Rosalie Ritz and Walt Stewart.[16]

In 1972, she was tried and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The mere fact that she owned the guns used in the crime was not sufficient to establish her responsibility for the plot. John Lennon and Yoko Ono, wrote the song "Angela" on their 1972 studio album Some Time In New York City to show their support. Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones, wrote the song "Sweet Black Angel" in her support. The song was released in 1972 on the album Exile on Main Street.[17]

[edit] In Cuba

After her release, Davis moved to Cuba, following fellow radicals Huey Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and Assata Shakur. Her reception by Afro-Cubans at a mass rally was so enthusiastic that she was reportedly barely able to speak.[18]

[edit] Aleksander Solzhenitsyn

In a New York City speech on July 9, 1975, Russian dissident and Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn told an AFL-CIO meeting that Davis was derelict in supporting various socialist projects around the world, given her stark opposition to the U.S. prison system. In particular, Solzhenitsyn claimed that a group of Czech prisoners appealed to Davis for support, which he said she refused to offer.[19] In a speech at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, Davis denied Solzhenitsyn's claim.[20]

[edit] Activism

Davis ran for Vice President on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and 1984, along with the veteran party leader, Gus Hall, as the lead candidate. She also won the Lenin Peace Prize from East Germany for her civil rights activism.

Angela Davis as honorary guest of an East German Youth Festival in 1973

Davis has continued a career of activism, and has written several books. A principal focus of her current activism is the state of prisons within the United States. She considers herself an abolitionist, not a "prison reformer," and has referred to the United States prison system as the "prison-industrial complex". Davis suggested focusing social efforts on education and building "engaged communities" to solve various social problems now handled through state punishment.[2] Davis was one of the primary founders of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to building a movement to abolish the prison system.

She has lectured at San Francisco State University, Stanford University, Bryn Mawr College, Brown University, Syracuse University, and other schools.[2] She states that in her teaching, which is mostly at the graduate level, she concentrates more on posing questions that encourage development of critical thinking than on imparting knowledge.[2] In 1997, she declared herself to be a lesbian in Out magazine.[21]

Davis spoke out against the 1995 Million Man March, arguing that the exclusion of women from this event necessarily promoted male chauvinism and that the organizers, including Louis Farrakhan, preferred women to take subordinate roles in society. Together with Kimberlé Crenshaw and others, she formed the African American Agenda 2000, an alliance of Black feminists.[22]

Davis is no longer a member of the Communist Party, leaving it to help found the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, which broke from the Communist Party USA because of the latter's support of the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 and the Communist parties of the Warsaw Pact.[23] She remains on the Advisory Board of the Committees.[24]

Davis at the University of Alberta, March 28, 2006.

Davis has continued to speak out against the death penalty. At the University of California, Santa Cruz (UC Santa Cruz), she participated in a 2004 panel concerning Kevin Cooper. She also spoke in defense of Stanley "Tookie" Williams on another panel in 2005,[25] and 2009.[26]

In addition to being the commencement speaker at Grinnell College in 2007, in October of that year, Davis was the keynote speaker at the fifth annual Practical Activism Conference at UC Santa Cruz.[27]

On February 8, 2008, Davis spoke on the campus of Howard University at the invitation of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity. On February 24, 2008, she was featured as the closing keynote speaker for the 2008 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference. On April 14, 2008, she spoke at the College of Charleston as a guest of the Women's and Gender Studies Program. On January 23, 2009, she was the keynote speaker at the Martin Luther King Commemorative Celebration on the campus of Louisiana State University.[28]

On April 16, 2009, she was the keynote speaker at the University of Virginia Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies symposium on The Problem of Punishment: Race, Inequity, and Justice.[29] On January 20, 2010, Davis was the keynote speaker in San Antonio, Texas, at Trinity University's MLK Day Celebration held in Laurie Auditorium.

Davis is currently a Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Women's and Gender Studies Department at Syracuse University.[30]

[edit] Other

In March 1973, Davis was refused admittance into Wounded Knee as an "undesirable person" by the Bureau of Indian Affairs police.[31][32]

[edit] Bibliography

  • Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire, Seven Stories Press (October 1, 2005), ISBN 1583226958.
  • Are Prisons Obsolete?, Open Media, (April 2003), ISBN 1583225811
  • Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday, Vintage Books, (January 26, 1999), ISBN 0679771263
  • Women, Culture & Politics, Vintage, (February 19, 1990), ISBN 0679724877.
  • The Angela Y. Davis Reader, (Joy James, Ed.), Wiley-Blackwell (December 11, 1998), ISBN 0631203613.
  • Women, Race, & Class, (February 12, 1983)
  • Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Random House, (September 1974), ISBN 0394489780

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20077018,00.html
  2. ^ a b c d e "Interview with Angela Davis". BookTV. 2004-10-03.
  3. ^ Histcon.ucsc.edu[dead link]
  4. ^ Davis, Angela Yvonne (March 1989). "Rocks". Angela Davis: An Autobiography. New York City: International Publishers. ISBN 0717-80667-7. 
  5. ^ Aptheker, Bettina (1999) The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis (2nd ed.) Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press http://books.google.com/books?id=yA9vwr6g8cMC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false 
  6. ^ "Sandiegoreader.com". Sandiegoreader.com. 2007-08-23. http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2007/aug/23/bourgeois-marxist/. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Davis, Angela Yvonne (March 1989). "Waters". Angela Davis: An Autobiography. New York City: International Publishers. ISBN 0717-80667-7. 
  8. ^ Davis, Angela Yvonne (March 1989). "Flames". Angela Davis: An Autobiography. New York City: International Publishers. ISBN 0717-80667-7. 
  9. ^ ""Women Outlaws: Politics of Gender and Resistance in the US Criminal Justice System", SUNY Cortland, Mechthild Nagel". Web.cortland.edu. 2005-05-02. http://web.cortland.edu/nagelm/papers_for_web/davis_assata06.htm. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  10. ^ "Google Books". Books.google.com. 1972-05-25. http://books.google.com/books?id=rrEDAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  11. ^ a b "Search broadens for Angela Davis". Eugene Register-Guard. August 17, 1970. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=4BkRAAAAIBAJ&sjid=NuEDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6482%2C3554926. Retrieved September 14, 2009. 
  12. ^ __BookTextView/135;pt=125 "Biography". Davis (Angela) Legal Defense Collection, 1970-1972. http://digilib.nypl.org/dynaweb/ead/scm/scmdavisa/@Generic __BookTextView/135;pt=125. Retrieved 2007-06-21. [dead link]
  13. ^ Abt, John; Myerson, Michael (1993) Advocate and Activist: Memoirs of an American Communist Lawyer Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press ISBN 0252020308, 9780252020308 http://books.google.com/books?id=9REaIPPh4k4C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false 
  14. ^ Davis, Angela Yvonne (March 1989). "Nets". Angela Davis: An Autobiography. New York City: International Publishers. ISBN 0717-80667-7. 
  15. ^ Sol Stern (June 27, 1971). "The Campaign to Free Angela Davis and Ruchell Magee". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/03/08/home/davis-campaign.html. 
  16. ^ University of California, Berkeley (February 8, 2005). ""Two Artists of the Courtroom" on exhibit". Press release. http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/02/08_courtroomartist.shtml. 
  17. ^ Caldwell, Earl. "Angela Davis Acquitted on All Charges" The New York Times. June 5, 1972. Retrieved on 2008-07-02.
  18. ^ Gott, Richard (2004). Cuba: A New History. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 230. ISBN 0-300-10411-1. 
  19. ^ Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr (October 1976). Warning to the West. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. pp. 60'61. ISBN 0374513341. http://www.angeladavis.org. 
  20. ^ Angela Davis, Q&A after a speech, "Engaging Diversity on Campus: The Curriculum and the Faculty," East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania, 15 October 2006.
  21. ^ "Angela Davis". Notable name database. http://www.nndb.com/people/185/000024113/. Retrieved 2007-07-21. 
  22. ^ E. Frances White (2001). Dark continent of our bodies: black feminism and the politics of respectability. Temple University Press. ISBN 9781566398800. http://books.google.com/books?id=MLz7jo09yiAC&pg=PA78&dq=angela+davis+African+American+Agenda+2000,#v=onepage&q=angela%20davis%20African%20American%20Agenda%202000%2C&f=false. 
  23. ^ "(title unknown)". Corresponder (Committees of Correspondence). 1992. 
  24. ^ "Advisory board". Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism website. Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. 2007-07-20. http://www.cc-ds.org/advisory_bd.html. Retrieved 2007-07-20. 
  25. ^ ""Angela Davis: 'The State of California May Have Extinguished the Life of Stanley Tookie Williams, But They Have Not Managed to Extinguish the Hope for a Better World'", Democracy Now, December 13, 2005". Democracynow.org. 2005-12-13. http://www.democracynow.org/2005/12/13/angela_davis_the_state_of_california. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  26. ^ Bybee, Crystal (2009-11-11). "Indybay.org". Indybay.org. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/11/11/18628372.php. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  27. ^ Santa Cruz Indymedia coverage of the 5th annual Practical Activism Conference at UC Santa Cruz.
  28. ^ Foley, Melissa. "LSU to Hold Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Events." LSU Highlights. Jan. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. [1]
  29. ^ Bromley, Anne. "Angela Davis to Headline the Woodson Institute's Spring Symposium." The Woodson Institute Newsletter. 2 Apr. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. [2]
  30. ^ "WGS.syr.edu". WGS.syr.edu. http://wgs.syr.edu/FacultyStaff.htm. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 
  31. ^ "ANGELA DAVIS". The Afro-American. UPI (Baltimore, Maryland): p. 1. March 31, 1973. http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=_EsmAAAAIBAJ&sjid=D_4FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1940%2C1528465. Retrieved July 16, 2010. 
  32. ^ Wounded Knee 1973: A Personal Account - Google Books. Books.google.com. http://books.google.com/books?id=5YykXaS8LI8C&lpg=PA21&ots=5XP1LpV3Va&dq=%22Angela%20Davis%22%20Wounded%20knee&pg=PA21#v=onepage&q=Angela%20Davis&f=false. Retrieved 2010-08-27. 

[edit] External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Jarvis Tyner
Communist Party USA Vice Presidential candidate
1980 (lost), 1984 (lost)
Succeeded by

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