Angela Davis | Wikigender (2024)

Table of Contents

  • 1 Angela Davis
  • 2 Early Life, Education, and Teaching
    • 2.1 Birmingham and “Dynamite Hill”
    • 2.2 Educational and Philosophical Influences
    • 2.3 Time as a teacher at the University of California, Los Angeles
  • 3 Activism and Imprisonment
    • 3.1 The Soledad Brothers and the Marin County Courthouse incident
    • 3.2 “Free Angela Davis”
  • 4 Current Activism
    • 4.1 Contributions to Feminism
  • 6 References
  • 7 See also
  • 8 External links

Angela Davis

Tumblr Angela Yvonne Davis is an American activist and scholar, gaining renown in 1960’s in the Civil Rights Movement, and as a leader in the Communist Party USA. Although never an official member, her close ties with the Black Panther Party were also influential in her activist career. Her interests lie in feminism, Marxism, social consciousness, and prisoner rights. In 1988, she founded Critical Resistance, a grassroots organization working to dismantle the prison-industrial complex in the Gender Equality in the United States of America of America. The organization was founded by Davis along with Rose Braz and Ruth Wilson Gilmore. She is considered one of the ideological founders of Black Feminism .

Early Life, Education, and Teaching

Birmingham and “Dynamite Hill”

Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama to Frank and Sallye Davis. Davis had early experiences with racial predjudice and discrimination living in the “Dynamite Hill” neighborhood – a region characterized by significant racial violence. She attended elementary and middle school in Birmingham, before studying at an integrated high school in New York City, through a grant from the American Friends Service Committee. She was greatly influenced by her mother’s active leadership role in the Southern Negro Cross and in high school, she studied socialist and communist thought through the school’s young communist group. Kum-Kum Bhavnani, Bhavnani; Davis,Angela (Spring 1989). “Complexity, Activism, Optimism: An Interview with Angela Y. Davis”. Feminist Review (31): 66–81. JSTOR

Educational and Philosophical Influences

After high school in New York, Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University, and became one of the three black students in her freshman class. She spent her third year in Paris with the Hamilton College Junior in Paris Program.Alice Kaplan, Dreaming in French: The Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2013) It was there that she learned of the 1963 Birmingham church bombing – a racist attack committed by the Ku Klux Klan. She knew a number of the young women killed in the bombings. After France, she decided to pursue studies in philosophy, graduating in 1965 from Brandeis, and then beginning studies in philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. She returned to the USA two years later to study at the University of California, San Diego.

Time as a teacher at the University of California, Los Angeles

Soon after completing her graduate work, Davis was hired to teach for the University of California, Los Angeles. An outspoken activist, radical feminist, member of the Communist Party, and associate of the Black Panther Party, Davis soon had difficulties with the Board of Regents of the University of California. Urged by California governer Ronald Reagan, the Board fired her less than a year after her hiring, on the grounds of her Communist Party membership. Although Judge Jerry Pracht later ruled this reasoning unsound, the Board continued its attempts to be rid of Davis. She was again fired in 1970, on the basis of her “inflamatory language.”

Activism and Imprisonment

The Soledad Brothers and the Marin County Courthouse incident

During her PhD work, Davis became a strong advocate for the three recently accused inmates of the Soledad Prison. Referred to as the “Soledad Brothers,” John W. Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo and George Lester Jackson, were accused of killing white prison guard John Vincent Mills, following the deaths of three black prisoners. The white corrections officer responsable for their deaths – Opie G. Miller – had recently been acquitted by the all white Monterey County grand jury. A number of activists argued that the Soledad Brothers were merely being used as scapegoats for the corrupt, racist prison system. During Jackson’s trial on August 7, 1970, an escape and hostage attempt was made, with the goal of using “the hostages to take over a radio station and broadcast the racist, murderous prison conditions and demand the immediate release of the Soledad Brothers.”Stephen Millies, “Long live the spirit of Jonathan Jackson”, 8 August 2010

“Free Angela Davis”

Two of the four weapons used in the Soledad incident were registered in Angela Davis’ name, and with this evidence, she was soon placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List – wanted for murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. Columbia University’s program for Social Justice Movements describes the time of the search for Angela Davis:

“The witch-hunt for a woman, who fought for the liberation of all people, easily became a means to attack a community of people, not just Angela Davis. Black women across the nation were being pulled over in cars, stopped on the street, and accosted for being black while wearing a ‘natural.’ It was not just Angela Davis who was a fugitive, but also any black woman whose hair was coiffed into a black corona.”

Two months after going underground, Davis was taken into custody in New York. Her 16-month imprisonment led to a highly publicized trial, and a huge international “Free Angela Davis” campaign. More than 200 defense committees were formed through the campaign, leading to her final acquittal in 1972. Later in her 1974 autobiography, Davis makes it clear that her assumed guilt and imprisonment were not directed at her specifically, but rather were the product of systematic racist, sexist oppression within the USA. She explains that “the one extraordinary event of my life had nothing to do with me as an individual—with a little twist of history, another sister or brother could have easily become the political prisoner whom millions of people from throughout the world rescued from persecution and death.”

Current Activism

Contributions to Feminism

Feminist Davis has devoted a considerable amount of her research to the concerns of women – especially the oppression of Black women. Throughout her work, she highlights the importance of intersections between race, gender, and class for Black women in the United States. Although many of Davis’ political views point to the necessity of a socialist system for the true liberation and equality of individuals, she argues that the continuation of any oppression, even within the socialist movement, will result in the failure of the movement as a whole. “Liberation must be liberation for all.” In her fundamental book Women, Race, and Class, Davis highlights the racism and classism in the Suffrage movement, and the reproductive rights movement. She discusses violence against women, attributing the failures of these social justice movements to their exclusion, their lack of diversity, and thus their inability to address the questions, oppressions, and violence in their complexity. Similarly, in the Civil Rights and many socialist movements, sexism existed which made it difficult for women to voice and address their oppressions-– Davis shows how this inability to address specifically Black women’s concerns has resulted in the perpetuation of a role as domestic workers, predominantly in white households. In other publications, Davis demonstrates the impact of slavery on American society’s concept of black women that through the sexual abuse and rape by white male plantation owners, as a means of further dominance in the system of slavery, black women were reduced to labor commodities and simply worth their reproductive capacity. Following the system of slavery and the abolition movement, Davis shows the continued economic and social violence against Black women citing examples such as exclusion from higher education, and racism and sexism in the Suffrage and Civil Rights Movements. Throughout her work, Davis highlights the role of education in liberation — pointing to the costs of the historic systematic exclusion of Black women from higher education. She also addresses the important contributions of cooperation between African-American and white women during the Reconstruction period, which established the roots of the South’s first public school system. Finally, Davis supports a global outlook on women’s rights, emphasizing the need for women to form “a united, multiracial, antimonopoly women’s movement in order to aid oppressed women throughout the world.”

Published Works

  • If They Come in the Morning (1971)
  • Lectures on Liberation (1971?)
  • The Black Family: The Ties That Bind
  • Women, Race, and Class (1983)
  • Violence Against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism (1987)
  • Blues Legacies and Black feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (1998)
  • Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1988)
  • Women, Culture and Politics (1990)
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003)
  • Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (2005)
  • Beyond the Frame: Women of Color and Visual Representations (2005)
  • The Meaning of Freedom (2012)


See also

  • Intersectionality
  • Feminism
  • Lesbian
  • LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender)

External links

Angela Davis | Wikigender (2024)
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