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Friday, April 24, 2009

Angela Davis: More Than a Hair Cut

"It is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo." Angela Davis

One in 37

This is reprinted from my blog from 12/15/05:

In 1971 Angela Y. Davis faced a possible death sentence from the State of California.

A member of the communist party who studied under Theodore Adorno at the Frankfurt School in Germany, she became a public figure when she was fired from UCLA by then governor of California, Ronald Reagan, for her radical politics. She subsequently received death threats on a daily basis, and had countless mainstream news articles written about her. She was outspoken, articulate and confident and quickly became a symbol of black power in popular culture. George Jackson, an inmate at San Quentin who was doing life in prison for allegedly committing an armed robbery for $71, contacted her for help. He and two other inmates-the Soledad Brothers- were being charged with killing a guard. Jackson was also a communist, and claimed he was being persecuted for his political beliefs. Davis got involved in the campaign to clear the Soledad Brothers and educate the public about racism and the prison system. At this point she became a Black Panther.

In August of 1970, George Jackson’s younger brother Jonothan was shot and killed after allegedly seizing hostages that would presumably be exchanged for his brother’s freedom. The gun that was found was registered to Davis, who went underground and ended up on the F.B.I.’s ten most wanted list for attempted murder, conspiracy and kidnapping. She was eventually caught by police in NYC, where she did time in the Women’s Detention Center there before being transferred to the state of California where, if convicted, she could have been sent to the gas chamber.

In August 1971 George Jackson was shot and killed by prison guards a few days before his case went to court. Prison officials claim he had a gun and was trying to escape. Eyewitnesses say he was not armed or fleeing the prison. The other two Soledad Brothers were acquitted.

In 1972, Angela Y. Davis was cleared of all charges. She resumed her career as a teacher and became a writer and public intellectual. She has run for president (at least twice) and continues to fight against oppression and speak out, focusing on racism, classism, sexism and the prison industrial complex.


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