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Angela Davis has left her mark as an activist, teacher, and freedom fighter over the course of many decades. She was born January 26, 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama. Growing up in Alabama, she experienced many painful things as a result of racism, including losing friends in the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
After spending time in Paris studying French, philosophy, and communism, Davis returned to the United States and continued studying philosophy in San Diego, California. She established ties with the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles and also with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She also joined the Che-Lumumba Club, a black cell of the Communist Party.
In 1970, she was accused of being part of a prison uprising and was placed on the FBI’s Most Wanted List. While in prison awaiting the completion of her trial, Davis continued her activism by empowering prisoners and discussing communism. She also helped write If They Come in the Morning while behind bars.
After being freed in 1972 after a widespread movement calling for her release, California Governor Ronald Reagan declared that Davis would never be allowed to teach again, but she soon returned to San Francisco State University. She also helped found Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization that is fighting to abolish the prison industrial complex. Davis believes that the prison system is simply slavery in another form.
In 1979, Davis was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. Over the course of the next three decades, Davis continued her work as an academic, published multiple books, and lectured both in the United States and abroad. She is currently the Distinguished Professor Emerita of History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
The following video is a clip of an interview Davis completed while being held in prison on murder charges that she was eventually found not guilty of. The interview took place in 1970, and Davis discusses how the Black Panthers were not the first black people to arm themselves. She talks about how while growing up in Birmingham, her father participated in armed patrols and that her “earliest childhood memories are bound up with the sounds of dynamite.” Check out the clip below to hear more about Davis’ feelings about armed struggle and why even W.E.B. DuBois carried a gun.