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Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist and retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruzmarker.She was director of the university's Feminist Studiesdepartment.

Angela Davis in October 2006
Her research interests are in feminism, African American studies, critical theory, popular music culture and social consciousness, and philosophy of punishment (women's jails and prisons).[7857]Davis is the founder of Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish what it calls the prison-industrial complex.

Davis was an activist during the Civil Rights Movementand a candidate for the U.S. Vice Presidency on the Communist Partyticket. Since leaving the Communist Party, she has identified herself as a democratic socialist.

She was acquitted of murder in the August 1970 abduction and killing of JudgeHarold Haleyin Marin County, California.

Childhood

Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabamamarker.Her father was a graduate of St. Augustine's Collegemarker, a traditionally black college in Raleigh, North Carolinamarker, and was briefly a high school history teacher.He later owned and operated a service stationin the blacksection of Birmingham. Her mother, a graduate of Miles Collegein Birmingham, Alabama, was an elementary school teacher.

The family lived in the "Dynamite Hill" neighborhood, which was marked by racial conflict. She was occasionally able to spend time on her uncle's farm and with friends in New York Citymarker.Her brother, Ben Davis, played defensive backfor the Cleveland Brownsand Detroit Lionsin the late 1960s and early 1970s.

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

Education

Brandeis University

Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis Universitymarker in Waltham, Massachusettsmarker, where she was one of three black students in her freshman class.Initially alienated by the isolation of the campus (at that time she was interested in Albert Camusand Jean-Paul Sartre), she soon made friends with foreign students. She encountered the communist theoretician Herbert Marcuseat a rally during the Cuban Missile Crisisand then became his student. 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 Studentsin Helsinki, Finland. She returned home to an FBImarker interview about her attendance at the Communist-sponsored festival.

During her second year at Brandeis, she decided to major in Frenchand continued her intensive study of Sartre. Davis was accepted by the Hamilton CollegeJunior 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 Biarritzmarker and later at the Sorbonnemarker.In Paris, she and other students lived with a French family. It was at Biarritz that she received news of the 1963 Birmingham church bombingmarker, committed by the members of the Ku Klux Klan, an occasion that deeply affected her, because, she wrote, she was personally acquainted with the four young victims.

Nearing completion of her degree in French, Davis realized her major interest was in philosophy. She became particularly interested in the ideas of Herbert Marcuseand 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 Frankfurtmarker for graduate work in philosophy.In 1965 she graduated magna cum laude, a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

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 loftin an old factory. After visiting East Berlin during the annual May Day celebration, she felt that the East Germanmarker government was dealing better with the residual effects of fascism than were the West Germansmarker.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 Partyand transformation of SNCC, for example — impelled her to return to the United States.

Postgraduate work

Marcuse, in the meantime, had moved to the University of California, San Diegomarker.She followed him there after her two years in Frankfurt.

On the way to the United States, she stopped in London to attend a conference on "The Dialecticsof Liberation." The African-American contingent included the American Stokely Carmichaeland the British Michael X. Although moved by Carmichael's fiery rhetoric, she was disappointed by her colleagues' black nationalistsentiments 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.

She earned her master's degree from the San Diego campus and her doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt Universitymarker in East Berlin.

UCLA

Davis was an acting assistant professor in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angelesmarker, UCLA, beginning in 1969.At that time, she also was known as a radical feministand activist, a member of the Communist Party USAand an associate of the Black Panther Party.

The Board of Regentsof the University of California, urged by then-California GovernorRonald Reagan, fired her from her job in 1969 because of her membership in the Communist Party. She was later rehired after legal action was taken.

Arrest and trial

On August 7, 1970, Superior CourtJudge Harold Haley was abducted from his Marin County, California, courtroom and murdered during an effort to free a convict.

The firearms used in the attack were purchased in Davis's name, including the shotgun used to kill Haley, which had been purchased only two days prior and sawed-off.. 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.

Cuban poster saying: "Freedom for Angela Davis," 1971


Davis fled California and evaded the police for more than two months before being captured in New York City. While being held in the Women's Detention Center in New York City, 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.

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

In 1972, 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.

In Cuba

After her release, Davis moved to Cuba, following fellow radicals Huey Newtonand Stokely Carmichael. Her reception by Afro-Cubansat a mass rally was so enthusiastic that she was reportedly barely able to speak.

People's Temple

Angela Davis at times supported the Peoples Temple, led by its minister, Jim Jones, and she attended Jones' speeches at the Peoples Temple in San Franciscomarker.Between 1975 and 1977, Davis participated in Temple rallies and met with its members.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

In a New York City speech on July 9, 1975, Russian dissident and Nobel Laureate Aleksandr Solzhenitsyntold an AFL-CIOmeeting 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 further said she refused to offer.In a speech at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania, Davis denied Solzhenitsyn's claim.

Activism

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

Angela Davis as honorary guest of an East German Youth Festival in 1973
She 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 Statesmarker.She considers herself an abolitionist, not a "prison reformer," and has referred to the United States prison systemas 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. 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 Universitymarker, Stanford Universitymarker, Bryn Mawr Collegemarker, Syracuse Universitymarker, and other schools.She states that in her teaching, which is mostly at the graduate level, she concentrates more on posing questions that encourage development of critical thinkingthan on imparting knowledge. In 1997, she declared herself to be a lesbianin Outmagazine.

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

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

Davis at the University of Alberta, March 28, 2006.
Davis has continued to speak against the death penalty. At the University of California, Santa Cruzmarker, she participated in a 2004 panel concerning Kevin Cooper.She also spoke in defense of Stanley "Tookie" Williamson another panel in 2005, and 2009.

She was the commencement speakerat Grinnell Collegein May 2007. On October 27, 2007, Davis was the keynote speakerat the fifth annual Practical Activism Conference at UC Santa Cruz.

On February 8, 2008, she spoke on the campus of Howard Universitymarker 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 Universitymarker.

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.

See also



References

  1. "Women Outlaws: Politics of Gender and Resistance in the US Criminal Justice System", SUNY Cortland, Mechthild Nagel
  2. Caldwell, Earl. "Angela Davis Acquitted on All Charges" The New York Times. June 5, 1972. Retrieved on 2008-07-02.
  3. Reiterman, Tim and John Jacobs. Raven: The Untold Story of Reverend Jim Jones and His People. Dutton, 1982. ISBN 0-525-24136-1. p. 266.
  4. Angela Davis, Q&A after a speech, "Engaging Diversity on Campus: The Curriculum and the Faculty," East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania, 10/15/2006.
  5. "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”", Democacy Now, December 13, 2005
  6. http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2009/11/11/18628372.php
  7. Santa Cruz Indymedia coverage of the 5th annual Practical Activism Conference at UC Santa Cruz.
  8. Foley, Melissa. "LSU to Hold Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration Events." LSU Highlights. Jan. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. [1]
  9. Bromley, Anne. "Angela Davis to Headline the Woodson Institute’s Spring Symposium." The Woodson Institute Newsletter. 2 Apr. 2009. Web. 3 Nov. 2009. [2]


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