- Communist professor at the University of California’s Santa Cruz campus
- Recipient of the Lenin “Peace Prize” from the police state of East Germany in 1979
- Provided an arsenal of weapons to Black Panthers who used them to kill a Marin County judge in a failed attempt to free Davis' imprisoned lover, Black Panther murderer George Jackson
- Icon of the campus Left and frequent guest speaker at anti-war rallies
- Leader of a movement to free all criminals who are minorities claiming that they are political prisoners of the racist United States
- “The only path of liberation for black people is that which leads toward complete and radical overthrow of the capitalist class.”
Angela Yvonne Davis is a tenured professor in the “History of Consciousness” program at the University of California - Santa Cruz. A former member of the Black Panther Party, she is currently a “University Professor,” one of only seven in the entire California University system, which entitles her to a six-figure salary and a research assistant. This income is supplemented by speaking fees ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 per appearance on college campuses, where she is an icon of radical faculty, administrators, and students. Davis has also taught at UCLA and the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
Born into a middle-class family in Birmingham, Alabama on January 26, 1944, Davis attended segregated schools in that city until she enrolled at New York’s Little Red Schoolhouse (LRS), famous for its Communist faculty and student body. (Future Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin attended the school during the same period as Davis).
After having been exposed to the Marxist classics at LRS, Davis moved on to a full scholarship at Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York, an adjunct of LRS. While attending these schools, she was a house guest of Herbert Aptheker, the Communist Party’s chief theoretician, and his family.
In 1961 Davis enrolled at Brandeis University, where she majored in French. She spent her junior year studying in Paris, where she came into contact with Algerian revolutionaries. She graduated from Brandeis in 1965 and then spent two years on the faculty of Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. She returned to the U.S. to take another teaching position at UCLA, where she worked with radical professor Herbert Marcuse.
In 1968, as Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague spring,” Davis joined the Communist Party, voicing her belief that “the only path of liberation for black people is that which leads toward complete and radical overthrow of the capitalist class."
In September 1969 Davis was fired from UCLA when her membership in the Communist Party became known. This resulted in a celebrated First Amendment battle that made Davis a national figure and forced UCLA to rehire her.
In 1970 Davis was implicated by more than 20 witnesses in a plot to free her imprisoned lover, fellow Black Panther George Jackson, by hijacking a Marin County, California courtroom and taking hostage the judge, the prosecuting assistant district attorney, and two jurors. In an ensuing gun battle outside the court building, Judge Harold Haley’s head was blown off by a sawed-off shotgun owned by Ms. Davis. To avoid arrest for her alleged complicity in the plot, Ms. Davis fled California, using aliases and changing her appearance to avoid detection.
Two months later Davis was arrested by the FBI in New York City. At her 1972 trial, Davis presented her version of where she had been and what she had been doing at the time of the shootout. Because she was acting as her own attorney, she could not be cross-examined. She presented a number of alibi witnesses, almost all Communist friends, who testified that she had been with them in Los Angeles playing Scrabble at the time of the Marin slaughter. Prosecution witnesses who placed her in Marin were dismissed by Davis and her fellow attorneys as being unable to accurately identify blacks -- because they were white.
Following the announcement of the verdict that acquitted Davis, one juror faced news cameras and gave a revolutionary's clenched-fist salute. He laughed at the justice system, saying that prosecutors had been mistaken to expect that the “middle-class jury” would convict Davis. He and most of the jurors then went off to partake in a Davis victory party.
In 1979 Davis was awarded the Intenational Lenin Peace Prize (formerly named the International Stalin Peace Prize) by the East German police state. This honor was given by a Soviet government-appointed panel that sought to recognize individuals who had “strengthened peace among peoples” by advancing the agendas of the Kremlin and its totalitarian regime.
Davis ran for Vice President of the United States in 1980 and 1984, alongside Gus Hall, on the Communist Party ticket.
Davis remained an active member of the Communist Party until 1991, when she was expelled for opposing the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. She then formed the “Committees of Correspondence” to carry on the Communist mission with other Party members, including Bettina Aptheker (also a professor at UC Santa Cruz), Conn Hallinan (Provost at UC Santa Cruz), and Professor Harry Targ (Chair of the “Peace Studies” program at Purdue).
The "History of Consciousness" Program in which Davis teaches awarded a Ph.D. to Black Panther rapist, crack addict, and murderer Huey P. Newton, while Davis was on the faculty. (The creator of the History of Consciousness Program, Professor Page Smith, once told David Horowitz during a formal interview that he had established the program “to demonsrate that the Ph.D. is fraud.”)
During the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Davis was a frequent guest speaker at anti-war rallies.
Davis is the leader of her own movement against what she calls the “Prison-Industrial Complex,” claiming that all minorities in jail are actually “political prisoners” and should be released. Says Davis, “My question is, Why are people so quick to assume that locking away an increasingly large proportion of the U.S. population would help those who live in the free world feel safer and more secure? . . . [H]ow difficult it is to envision a social order that does not rely on the threat of sequestering people in dreadful places designed to separate them from their communities and their families.”
In 1997 Davis confirmed rumors that she is a lesbian, a subject about which she had long been reluctant to speak openly. In 1999 she delivered an address at Johns Hopkins University’s “Living Out Loud” program, a series of lectures, films and events presented by the Diverse Sexuality and Gender Alliance, an undergraduate group on campus. In her speech, Davis focused on how issues of race and class affect the gay movement.
For Davis, every facet of life is weighted with political significance. Her lesbianism, she says, is “something I’m fine with as a political statement.” She states that issues like sexuality can “enter into consciousness and become the focus of struggle” against domestic violence and AIDS. In her 1998 book, Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, Davis asserts that female blues vocalists who sang about homosexual desire, abusive men, jealousy, lust, travel, and love were creating “a working-class Black feminism” and “a politics of resistance challenging race and gender identity.”
Davis has never really written a scholarly or academic text. Her books, which are little more than political tracts, include: Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003); Imagining Medea: Rhodessa Jones and Theater for Incarcerated Women (2001); Global Critical Race Feminism: An International Reader (1999); The Angela Y. Davis Reader (1998); The House That Race Built (1998); Resisting State Violence: Radicalism, Gender, and Race in U.S. Culture (1996); Violence Against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism (1992); Women, Culture, and Politics (1989); Women, Race, and Class (1981); Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974); and If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance (1971).