Angela Y. Davis
Angela Yvonne Davis 1944 -
A picture of Angela Davis should sit adjacent the words activism and education in the dictionary. Her activist exploits were forged in childhood growing up in a section of Alabama known as “Dynamite Hill.” This nickname for her section of Birmingham was not created out of fondness for explosions. Rather, the segment of Birmingham Davis called home was called “Dynamite Hill” for the number of terror attacks and bombings of Black homes perpetrated by the white supremacist terror organization known as the Ku Klux Klan.
Davis was fortunate to observe racial activism at a young age. Her mother Sallye Davis was an active member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Davis revered her mother, who set a standard of academic excellence. When Sallye moved to New York to return to school, Davis followed.
Davis graduated magna cum laude in 1965 with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from Brandeis University. The bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church influenced Davis’ decision to enter the Civil Rights Movement. She joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and later the Black Panther Party led by Huey Newton.
Similar to her activist brethren Newton, Davis was a lifelong learner. In 1968, Davis earned her Master’s degree from the University of California at San Diego. After earning a graduate degree from UC San Diego, Davis was hired as a Philosophy professor by UCLA. Due to her work with the Communist Party, Davis was dismissed from UCLA.
Davis’ activism extended to people who were incarcerated. She fought for the release of two Black Panther Party members (George Jackson and W. L. Nolen) known as the Soledad Brothers. They were incarcerated in the Soledad Prison in California. When George Jackson’s younger brother failed to break out the Soledad Brothers, a warrant for the arrest of Davis was issued.
In the failed break out attempt, a judge, prison staff, and George Jackson's younger brother were all killed. Despite Davis not participating in the failed break out attempt, guns used in the attempt were registered in her name. To avoid arrest, Davis fled but was later captured in the state of New York. She was acquitted of all charges in 1972.
Davis was nominated to represent the Communist Party as its Vice Presidential candidate during the 1980 and 1984 general elections. Davis is the author of eight books, including: Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Women Race and Class, Are Prisons Obsolete?, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Abolition Democracy, The Meaning of Freedom, Women Culture and Politics, If They Come Morning, and her most recent work Freedom is a Constant Struggle, released in 2015.
In the face of protests to prevent Davis from teaching in the California State University system, Davis was hired to lecture at San Francisco State University. In fact, former President Ronald Reagan once vowed that Davis would never teach in California again. Currently, Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz.