History of Angela Davis in Timeline - Popular Timelines (2024)

History of Angela Davis in Timeline - Popular Timelines (1)

January 26, 1944

Angela Davis was born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama. She was christened at her father's Episcopal church. Her family lived in the "Dynamite Hill" neighborhood, which was marked in the 1950s by the bombings of houses in an attempt to intimidate and drive out middle-class black people who had moved there. Davis occasionally spent time on her uncle's farm and with friends in New York City. Her siblings include two brothers, Ben and Reginald, and a sister, Fania. Ben played defensive back for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

January 26, 1944

Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American Marxist and feminist political activist, philosopher, academic, and author; she is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Davis was a longtime member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and a founding member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). She was active in movements such as the Occupy movement and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.


She visited the Berlin Wall, where she laid flowers at the memorial for Reinhold Huhn, an East German guard who had been killed by a man who was trying to escape with his family across the border in 1962. Davis said, "We mourn the deaths of the border guards who sacrificed their lives for the protection of their socialist homeland" and "When we return to the USA, we shall undertake to tell our people the truth about the true function of this border." In 1973, she returned to East Berlin, leading the U.S. delegation to the 10th World Festival of Youth and Students.


Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she was one of three black students in her class. She encountered the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse at a rally during the Cuban Missile Crisis and became his student. In a 2007 television interview, Davis said, "Herbert Marcuse taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary." She worked part-time to earn enough money to travel to France and Switzerland and attended the eighth World Festival of Youth and Students in Helsinki. She returned home in 1963 to a Federal Bureau of Investigation interview about her attendance at the communist-sponsored festival.


While completing her degree in French, Davis realized that her primary area of interest was philosophy. She was particularly interested in Marcuse's ideas. On returning to Brandeis, she sat in on his course. She wrote in her autobiography that Marcuse was approachable and helpful. She 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.


Davis earned a master's degree from the University of California, San Diego, in 1968. She completed some work for a PhD at the University of California, San Diego around 1970 but never received a degree because her manuscripts were confiscated by the FBI. Instead, two years later, she received three honorary doctorates: In August 1972 from Moscow State University, and from the University of Tashkent during that same visit, and in September 1972 from the Karl-Marx University in Leipzig, Germany. In 1981, she returned to Germany to continue working on her PhD. The Humboldt University of Berlin does not have a record of an often-cited PhD degree from Angela Davis.


After her acquittal, Davis went on an international speaking tour in 1972 and the tour included a trip to Cuba, where she had previously been received by Fidel Castro as a member of a Communist Party delegation in 1969. Robert F. Williams, Huey Newton and Stokely Carmichael had also visited Cuba, and Assata Shakur later moved there after she escaped from a U.S. prison. At a mass rally held by Afro-Cubans, she was reportedly barely able to speak because her reception was so enthusiastic. Davis perceived Cuba as a racism-free country, which led her to believe that "only under socialism could the fight against racism be successfully executed." When she returned to the U.S., her socialist leanings increasingly influenced her understanding of racial struggles. In 1974, she attended the Second Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women.


As early as 1969, Davis began public speaking engagements. She expressed her opposition to the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and the prison–industrial complex, and her support of gay rights and other social justice movements. In 1969, she blamed imperialism for the troubles oppressed populations suffer:


Beginning in 1969, Davis was an acting assistant professor in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Although both Princeton and Swarthmore had tried to recruit her, she opted for UCLA because of its urban location. At that time she was known as a radical feminist and activist, a member of the Communist Party USA, and an affiliate of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party.


In 1969, she was hired as an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA's governing Board of Regents soon fired her due to her membership in the CPUSA. After a court ruled the firing illegal, the university fired her for the use of inflammatory language. In 1970, guns belonging to Davis were used in an armed takeover of a courtroom in Marin County, California, in which four people were killed. Prosecuted for three capital felonies—including conspiracy to murder—she was held in jail for over a year before being acquitted of all charges in 1972.


In 1969, the University of California initiated a policy against hiring Communists. At their September 19, 1969, meeting, the Board of Regents fired Davis from her $10,000-a-year post (equivalent to $61,520 in 2022) because of her membership in the Communist Party, urged on by California Governor and future president Ronald Reagan. Judge Jerry Pacht ruled the Regents could not fire Davis solely because of her affiliation with the Communist Party, and she resumed her post.

June 20, 1970

The Regents fired Davis again on June 20, 1970, for the "inflammatory language" she had used in four different speeches. The report stated, "We deem particularly offensive such utterances as her statement that the regents 'killed, brutalized (and) murdered' the People's Park demonstrators, and her repeated characterizations of the police as 'pigs'". The American Association of University Professors censured the board for this action.

August 07, 1970

On August 7, 1970, heavily armed 17-year-old African-American high-school student Jonathan Jackson, whose brother was George Jackson, one of the three Soledad Brothers, gained control of a courtroom in Marin County, California. He armed the black defendants and took Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages. As Jackson transported the hostages and two black defendants away from the courtroom, one of the defendants, James McClain, shot at the police. The police returned fire.

August 14, 1970

As California considers "all persons concerned in the commission of a crime,... whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense, or aid and abet in its commission,... are principals in any crime so committed", Davis was charged with "aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder in the death of Judge Harold Haley", and Marin County Superior Court Judge Peter Allen Smith issued a warrant for her arrest. Hours after the judge issued the warrant on August 14, 1970, a massive attempt to find and arrest Davis began. On August 18, four days after the warrant was issued, the FBI director J. Edgar Hoover listed Davis on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List; she was the third woman and the 309th person to be listed.

October 13, 1970

Soon after, Davis became a fugitive and fled California. According to her autobiography, during this time she hid in friends' homes and moved at night. On October 13, 1970, FBI agents found her at a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge in New York City. President Richard M. Nixon congratulated the FBI on its "capture of the dangerous terrorist Angela Davis."


In 1971, black playwright Elvie Moore wrote the play Angela is Happening, depicting Davis on trial with figures such as Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X, and H. Rap Brown as eyewitnesses proclaiming her innocence. The play was performed at the Inner City Cultural Center and at UCLA, with Pat Ballard as Davis. The documentary Angela Davis: Portrait of a Revolutionary (1972) was directed by UCLA Film School student Yolande du Luart. It follows Davis from 1969 to 1970, documenting her dismissal from UCLA. The film wrapped shooting before the Marin County incident.


In 1971, the CIA estimated that five percent of Soviet propaganda efforts were directed towards the Angela Davis campaign. In August 1972, Davis visited the Soviet Union at the invitation of the Central Committee, and received an honorary doctorate from Moscow State University. She also received an honorary degree from the University of Tashkent during that same visit.

January 05, 1971

On January 5, 1971, Davis appeared at Marin County Superior Court and declared her innocence before the court and nation: "I now declare publicly before the court, before the people of this country that I am innocent of all charges which have been leveled against me by the state of California." 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.

February 1971

Across the nation, thousands of people began organizing a movement to gain her release. In New York City, black writers formed a committee called the Black People in Defense of Angela Davis. By February 1971, more than 200 local committees in the United States, and 67 in foreign countries, worked to free Davis from jail. John Lennon and Yoko Ono contributed to this campaign with the song "Angela". In 1972, after a 16-month incarceration, the state allowed her release on bail from the county jail. On February 23, 1972, Rodger McAfee, a dairy farmer from Fresno, California, paid her $100,000 (equivalent to $533,200 in 2022) bail with the help of Steve Sparacino, a wealthy business owner. The United Presbyterian Church paid some of her legal defense expenses.


In 1975, Russian dissident and Nobel laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn argued in a speech before an AFL–CIO meeting in New York City that Davis was derelict in having failed to support prisoners in various socialist countries around the world, given her strong opposition to the U.S. prison system. In 1972, Jiří Pelikán had written an open letter asking her to support Czechoslovak prisoners; Davis had refused, believing that the Czechoslovak prisoners were undermining the Husák government and that Pelikán, in exile in Italy, was attacking his own country. According to Solzhenitsyn, in response to concerns about Czechoslovak prisoners being "persecuted by the state", Davis had responded: "They deserve what they get. Let them remain in prison."

January 28, 1972

On January 28, 1972, Garrett Brock Trapnell hijacked TWA Flight 2. One of his demands was Davis's release.

June 04, 1972

A defense motion for a change of venue was granted, and the trial was moved to Santa Clara County. On June 4, 1972, after 13 hours of deliberations, the all-white jury returned a verdict of not guilty. The fact that she owned the guns used in the crime was judged insufficient to establish her role in the plot. She was represented by Howard Moore Jr. and Leo Branton Jr., who hired psychologists to help the defense determine who in the jury pool might favor their arguments, a technique that has since become more common. They also hired experts to discredit the reliability of eyewitness accounts.

September 1972

The East German government organized an extensive campaign on behalf of Davis. In September 1972, Davis visited East Germany, where she met the state's leader Erich Honecker, received an honorary degree from the University of Leipzig and the Star of People's Friendship from Walter Ulbricht. On September 11 in East Berlin she delivered a speech, "Not Only My Victory", praising the GDR and USSR and denouncing American racism.


Davis was a lecturer at the Claremont Black Studies Center at the Claremont Colleges in 1975. Attendance at the course she taught was limited to 26 students out of the more than 5,000 on campus, and she was forced to teach in secret because alumni benefactors did not want her to indoctrinate the general student population with Communist thought. College trustees made arrangements to minimize her appearance on campus, limiting her seminars to Friday evenings and Saturdays, "when campus activity is low".

September 10, 1977

In the mid-1970s, Jim Jones, who developed the cult Peoples Temple, initiated friendships with progressive leaders in the San Francisco area including Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement and Davis. On September 10, 1977, 14 months before the Temple's mass murder-suicide, Davis spoke via amateur radio telephone "patch" to members of his Peoples Temple living in Jonestown in Guyana. In her statement during the "Six Day Siege", she expressed support for the People's Temple anti-racism efforts and told members there was a conspiracy against them. She said, "When you are attacked, it is because of your progressive stand, and we feel that it is directly an attack against us as well." On February 28, 1978, Davis wrote to President Jimmy Carter, asking him not to assist in efforts to retrieve a child from Jonestown. Her letter called Jones "a humanitarian in the broadest sense of the word".


Davis taught a women's studies course at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1978 and was a professor of ethnic studies at the San Francisco State University from at least 1980 to 1984. She was a professor in the History of Consciousness and the Feminist Studies departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz and Rutgers University from 1991 to 2008. Since then, she has been a distinguished professor emerita.

May 01, 1979

On May 1, 1979, she was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union. She visited Moscow later that month to accept the prize, where she praised "the glorious name" of Vladimir Lenin and the "great October Revolution".


Davis accepted the Communist Party USA's nomination for vice president, as Gus Hall's running mate, in 1980 and in 1984. They received less than 0.02% of the vote in 1980. She left the party in 1991, founding the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Her group broke from the Communist Party USA because of the latter's support of the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt after the fall of the Soviet Union and tearing down of the Berlin Wall. Davis said that she and others who had "circulated a petition about the need for democratization of the structures of governance of the party" were not allowed to run for national office and thus "in a sense... invited to leave". In 2014, she said she continues to have a relationship with the CPUSA but has not rejoined. In the 2020 presidential election, Davis supported the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden.


During the 1980s, Davis was twice the Communist Party's candidate for vice president. In 1997, she co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison–industrial complex. In 1991, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union, she broke away from the CPUSA to help establish the CCDS. That same year, she joined the feminist studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she became department director before retiring in 2008.


Davis was a distinguished visiting professor at Syracuse University in the spring of 1992 and October 2010, and was the Randolph Visiting Distinguished Professor of philosophy at Vassar College in 1995.


From 1980 to 1983, Davis was married to Hilton Braithwaite. In 1997, she came out as a lesbian in an interview with Out magazine. By 2020, Davis was living openly with her partner, the academic Gina Dent, a fellow humanities scholar and intersectional feminist researcher at UC Santa Cruz. Together, they have advocated for the abolition of police and prisons, and for black liberation and Palestinian solidarity.


In 2001, she publicly spoke against the war on terror following the 9/11 attacks, continued to criticize the prison–industrial complex, and discussed the broken immigration system. She said that to solve social justice issues, people must "hone their critical skills, develop them and implement them." Later, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she declared that the "horrendous situation in New Orleans" was due to the country's structural racism, capitalism, and imperialism.


Davis has continued to oppose the death penalty. In 2003, she lectured at Agnes Scott College, a liberal arts women's college in Decatur, Georgia, on prison reform, minority issues, and the ills of the criminal justice system.

October 31, 2011

On October 31, 2011, Davis spoke at the Philadelphia and Washington Square Occupy Wall Street assemblies. Due to restrictions on electronic amplification, her words were human microphoned. In 2012, Davis was awarded the 2011 Blue Planet Award, an award given for contributions to humanity and the planet.


At the 27th Empowering Women of Color Conference in 2012, Davis said she was a vegan. She has called for the release of Rasmea Odeh, associate director at the Arab American Action Network, who was convicted of immigration fraud in relation to her hiding of a previous murder conviction.


In 2014, Davis returned to UCLA as a regents' lecturer. She delivered a public lecture on May 8 in Royce Hall, where she had given her first lecture 45 years earlier.


In 2016, Davis was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in Healing and Social Justice from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco during its 48th annual commencement ceremony.

January 21, 2017

Davis was an honorary co-chair of the January 21, 2017, Women's March on Washington, which occurred the day after President Donald Trump's inauguration. The organizers' decision to make her a speaker was criticized from the right by Humberto Fontova and the National Review. Libertarian journalist Cathy Young wrote that Davis's "long record of support for political violence in the United States and the worst of human rights abusers abroad" undermined the march.


Also in 2018, a cotton T-shirt with Davis's face on it was featured in Prada's 2018 collection.

October 16, 2018

On October 16, 2018, Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, presented Davis with an honorary degree during the inaugural Viola Desmond Legacy Lecture, as part of the institution's bicentennial celebration year.


A mural featuring Davis was painted by Italian street artist Jorit Agoch in the Scampia neighborhood of Naples in 2019.

January 07, 2019

On January 7, 2019, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) rescinded Davis's Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, saying she "does not meet all of the criteria". Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and others cited criticism of Davis's vocal support for Palestinian rights and the movement to boycott Israel. Davis said her loss of the award was "not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice." On January 25, the BCRI reversed its decision and issued a public apology, stating that there should have been more public consultation.

November 2019

In November 2019, along with other public figures, Davis signed a letter supporting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia, and racism in much of the democratic world", and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election.


Davis has received various awards, including the Soviet Union's Lenin Peace Prize and induction into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Having been accused of supporting political violence and for supporting the Soviet Union, she has been a controversial figure. In 2020, she was listed as the 1971 "Woman of the Year" in Time magazine's "100 Women of the Year" edition. In 2020, she was included on Time's list of the 100 most influential people in the world.


Her classes moved from one classroom to another and the students were sworn to secrecy. Much of this secrecy continued throughout Davis's brief time teaching at the colleges. In 2020 it was announced that Davis would be the Ena H. Thompson Distinguished Lecturer in Pomona College's history department, welcoming her back after 45 years.

January 20, 2020

On January 20, 2020, Davis gave the Memorial Keynote Address at the University of Michigan's MLK Symposium.


Davis was elected as a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2021.


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