- Founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army
- Killed in a 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police
Angela Atwood was born as Angela DeAngelis on February 6, 1949 in Patterson, New Jersey. She is best known for her role as a founding member of the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a pro-Marxist, California-based terrorist group of the 1970s. During her time with the SLA, Atwood also went by such names as “General Gelina,” “Anne Lindberg,” and “Angel.”
The daughter of a widowed Teamsters union official in New Jersey, Atwood was a member of the Catholic Youth Organization at Manchester Regional High School. She subsequently attended the University of Indiana (from which she graduated in 1970), where she met several individuals who would later become her SLA comrades, including William Harris, Emily Harris, and future husband Gary Atwood. (The couple married on May 8, 1971.)
During her college years, Atwood became involved with the Black Cultural Association (BCA), a black inmate organization that was active in California’s Vacaville Prison in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Coordinated by UC Berkeley instructor Colston Westbrook, the BCA brought a number of young white radicals—like Atwood, Russell Little, William Wolfe, Joseph Remiro, Nancy Ling Perry, William Harris, and Emily Harris—to the prison to tutor black inmates (such as Donald DeFreeze) in political science, black sociology, and African heritage. Over time, the BCA became increasingly politicized and ever-more committed to black nationalism as well as Maoism. “In the eyes of the young radicals” like Atwood and the others, says PBS.org, “the black prisoners, no matter what their crime, took on heroic proportions as political prisoners, oppressed by a racist and corrupt American society.”
In the summer of 1972 the Atwoods moved to San Francisco, where Angela befriended Kathleen Soliah and became a volunteer for the United Farm Workers and the Marxist-Leninist Venceremos organization. Atwood and Soliah were also employed as waitresses at Great Electric Undergound (GEU), an upscale restaurant located in the Bank of America world headquarters building in San Francisco. Both women eventually penned a letter denouncing their GEU managers as “agents of the ruling class” and abruptly quit their jobs.
When Angela and Gary Atwood separated in June 1973, Angela moved in with the Harrises and joined the SLA along with her new boyfriend, Russell Little. Atwood’s voice could be heard on a number of the tape-recorded “communiqués” that the SLA released to the media during the ensuing months.
On May 17, 1974, Atwood was one of six SLA members who were killed in a two-hour shootout with police at their hideout in South Central Los Angeles. The others who died were Donald DeFreeze, Camilla Hall, Nancy Ling Perry, Patricia Soltysik, and William Wolfe.
In addition to her affiliation with the organizations named above, Atwood was also tangentially involved in the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist organization.
Further Reading: “S.L.A. Rhetoric, Middle‐Class Platitudes—What the Hell Is the Difference?… Cheerleader for a Revolution” (NY Times, 7-21-1974); “Gary Atwood and Angela DeAngelis” (Indiana University Archives Photograph Collection); “The SLA Is the CIA” (by Mae Brussell, from The Realist, February 1974); “Unbroken” (Los Angeles Times, 8-5-2001); Patty’s Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America (by William Graebner, 2008); The FBI Encyclopedia (by Michael Newton); The Essential Mae Brussell: Investigations of Fascism in America (by Mae Brussell, 2014); “What Is the Symbionese Liberation Army?” (Slate.com, 1-24-2002).