Angela Davis Unisex T-Shirt
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Welcome to the Respect Due family Angela Davis! We salute you.
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Some quick facts about the amazing Angela Davis!
Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, philosopher, academic, and author. She is a professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Ideologically a Marxist, Davis was a member of the Communist Party USA until 1991, after which she joined the breakaway Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. She is the author of over ten books on class, feminism, and the U.S. prison system.
Born to an African American family in Birmingham, Alabama, Davis studied French at Brandeis University and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt in West Germany. Studying under the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, a prominent figure in the Frankfurt School of Marxism, Davis became increasingly interested in far-left politics. Returning to the U.S., she studied at the University of California, San Diego before moving to East Germany, where she gained a doctorate at the Humboldt University of Berlin. Back in the U.S., she joined the Communist Party and involved herself in a range of leftist causes, including the second-wave feminist movement, the Black Panther Party, and the campaign against the Vietnam War. In 1969 she was hired as an acting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA’s governing Board of Regents soon fired her due to her Communist Party membership; after a court ruled this illegal, the university fired her again, this time for her use of inflammatory language.
In 1970, Davis purchased firearms for people who used them in an armed takeover of a courtroom in Marin County, California, in which four people were killed. She was prosecuted for three capital felonies, including conspiracy to murder. After over a year in jail, she was acquitted of the charges in 1972. She continued both her academic work and her domestic activism. In the 1980s she was professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University. Much of her work focused on the abolition of prisons and in 1997 she co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison–industrial complex. During the 1970s she visited Marxist-Leninist-governed countries and during the 1980s was twice the Communist Party’s candidate for Vice President. In 1991, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union, she left the party and joined the breakaway Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Also in 1991, she joined the feminist studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she became department director before retiring in 2008. Since then she has continued to write and remained active in movements such as Occupy and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.
Praised by many Marxists and others on the far left, Davis has received various awards, including the Lenin Peace Prize. She has also sustained criticism for her support for political violence and her refusal to advocate for prisoners in Marxist-Leninist countries.
Angela Davis speaking at UCLA 10/8/1969
Davis left the Communist 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 Soviet coup attempt of 1991 following the fall of the Soviet Union and tearing down of the Berlin Wall. In 2014, she said she continues to have a relationship with the CPUSA but has not rejoined.
Davis has written several books. A principal focus of her current activism is the state of prisons in the United States. She considers herself an abolitionist, not a “prison reformer.” She has referred to the United States prison system as the “prison–industrial complex,” aggravated by the establishment of privately owned and run prisons. Davis advocates focusing social efforts on education and building “engaged communities” to solve various social problems now handled through state punishment.
Davis was one of the founders of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to building a movement to abolish the prison system. In recent works, she has argued that the US prison system more closely resembles a new form of slavery than a criminal justice system. According to Davis, between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century, the number of prisons in the United States sharply increased but crime rates continued to fall. She argues that racism in American society during this time was demonstrated by the disproportionate share of the African-American population who were incarcerated. “What is effective or just about this ‘justice’ system?” she urged people to ask.
Davis has lectured at Rutgers University, San Francisco State University, Stanford University, Smith College, Bryn Mawr College, Brown University, Syracuse University, and other schools. As most of her teaching is at the graduate level, she says that she concentrates more on posing questions that encourage development of critical thinking than on imparting knowledge.
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:
We are facing a common enemy and that enemy is Yankee Imperialism, which is killing us both here and abroad. Now I think anyone who would try to separate those struggles, anyone who would say that in order to consolidate an anti-war movement, we have to leave all of these other outlying issues out of the picture, is playing right into the hands of the enemy, she declared.
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 opposed the 1995 Million Man March, arguing that the exclusion of women from this event promoted male chauvinism. She said that Louis Farrakhan and other organizers appeared to prefer that women take subordinate roles in society. Together with Kimberlé Crenshaw and others, she formed the African American Agenda 2000, an alliance of Black feminists.
Davis has continued to oppose the death penalty. In 2003, she lectured at Agnes Scott College, a liberal arts women’s college in Atlanta, Georgia, on prison reform, minority issues, and the ills of the criminal justice system.
In 2008, Davis was a keynote speaker at Vanderbilt University‘s conference, “Who Speaks for the Negro?”. She has visited Vanderbilt twice since then, most recently to give the Commemorative Murray Lecture on February 25, 2015, on college activism.
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.
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 hiding her being convicted of murder.
On January 23, 2012, Davis was the Rhode Island School of Design‘s MLK Celebration Series keynote speaker and 2012 Honoree.
Davis was an honorary co-chair of the January 21, 2017, Women’s March on Washington, which occurred the day after President Trump’s inauguration. The organizers’ decision to make her a featured speaker was criticized from the right by Humberto Fontova and 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.
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.
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.
On January 20, 2020, Davis gave the Memorial Keynote Address at the University of Michigan’s MLK Symposium.
Angela Davis Interview
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 convicts away from the courtroom, the police began shooting at the vehicle. The judge and the three black men were killed in the melee; one of the jurors and the prosecutor were injured. Although the judge was shot in the head with a blast from a shotgun, he also suffered a chest wound from a bullet that may have been fired from outside the van. Evidence during the trial showed that either could have been fatal. Davis had purchased several of the firearms Jackson used in the attack, including the shotgun used to shoot Haley, which she bought at a San Francisco pawn shop two days before the incident. She was also found to have been corresponding with one of the inmates involved.
As California considers “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense… 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.
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.”
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.
While being held in the Women’s Detention Center, Davis was initially segregated from other prisoners, in solitary confinement. With the help of her legal team, she obtained a federal court order to get out of the segregated area.
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 prison. 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 county jail. On February 23, 1972, Rodger McAfee, a dairy farmer from Fresno, California, paid her $100,000 bail with the help of Steve Sparacino, a wealthy business owner. The United Presbyterian Church paid some of her legal defense expenses.
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 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. He hired experts to discredit the reliability of eyewitness accounts.
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