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Who is Angela Davis?

Updated: Jul 12, 2023

A political activist and author who was a revolutionary presence and voice.

By: Ana Palacios

"I often like to talk about feminism not as something that adheres to bodies, not as something grounded in gendered bodies, but as an approach- as a way of conceptualizing, as a methodology, as a guide to strategies for struggle." - Angela Davis

Perhaps less famous than other activist counterparts, Angela Davis is one of the most revolutionary minds of the twenty first century and a feminist worth recognizing. A prominent activist since the 1960s, Angela Davis is known for her feminist literature and revolutionary activism.

Born in 1944 in Birmingham Alabama, Ms. Davis grew up in the small-town ambiance, both her parents were involved in the community. This also meant however, that from an early age, she was exposed to racism, segregation, and racially provoked violence. She excelled as a student, although recounting in her autobiography: “[I could] see an all-White school nearby, a beautiful brick building surrounded by a lush, green lawn,” some miles away from her own school, an all-black school in “ram shackled” conditions. As an accomplished student, Ms. Davis graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University in 1965, and then went on to study in Paris-Sorbonne University and went on to the University of Frankfurt to where she studied philosophy for two years.

Ms. Davis is renowned as a scholar, and as a prominent activist and revolutionary. Member of both The Black Panthers and The Communist Party for some time, Ms. Davis was well-known around revolutionary circles. Notably, she helped found Critical Resistance and Sisters Inside, organizations for Black women. In The Communist Party, Ms. Davis spent most of her time within the “Che-Lumumba Club,” an all-Black branch of the Communist Party. Alongside the group's chairman, Ms. Davis organized and led the efforts against police-brutality, racial equity, and the rights of women, specifically those most vulnerable. As an assistant professor of philosophy in UCLA, and regardless of her success amongst students and faculty, her ties with the Communist Party were the cause of her dismissal in 1969.

Thereafter, she became a recognized activist for prison reform, most notably, as she became involved in the case of the Soledad Brothers, where George Jackson and two other inmates of the Soledad Prison were arraigned for the murder of a prison a guard. In an attempt to negotiate their release, Jonathan Jackson, the 17-year-old brother of George Jackson, took over the courtroom, taking the Judge and two other jurors’ hostage, while arming the defendants. This resulted in the murder of the defendants, the Judge and of Jonathan Jackson. Ms. Davis was accused of purchasing the weapons and forced to flee, facing arrest, and put on the FBI’s most-wanted list. Although found not guilty by an all-white jury, Ms. Davis had to face sixteen months in prison, while activists all over the globe rallied for her release.

Angela Davis has been a prominent figure in the fight for prison reform, and an important scholar in the study of intersectional feminism, namely in her book “Women, Race & Class.” Ms. Davis has advocated for other types of reform, emphasizing rehabilitation, and the heinous and racist roots of the prison industrial complex. In her 2010 book, “Are Prisons Obsolete?” She writes: “During my own career as an anti-prison activist, I have seen the population of U.S. prisons increase with such rapidity that many people in Black, Latino, and Native American communities now have a far greater chance of going to prison than getting an education" (Davis,2010). In her life, Ms. Davis continues to be an important scholar in the study of race, class, and feminism in America.


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