Imagine a world without prisons. That’s the world that Dr. Angela Davis wants you to think about.
Dr. Angela Davis, radical African-American writer, activist, and educator for civil rights and social issues was born in Birmingham, Alabama on Jan. 26, 1944. She studied in France acquiring revolutionary wisdom and studied Marxism in Germany and the US as well. Known as a critic of capitalism while opposing the death penalty, she has referred to the US prison system as the “prison-industrial complex” arguing that the US prison system resembles a new form of slavery than a criminal justice system.
1968 was an important year for Davis who was involved in the campaign to free George Jackson, a political prisoner arrested at 18 for robbery in 1961, and then later charged with the murder of prison guard John Vincent Mills in the aftermath of a prison fight with two other black prisoners.
Accepting a lectureship at UCLA where she could combine political work in her community with academics at the University, Davis’s membership in the Communist Party resulted in Gov. Ronald Raegan firing her before Dr. Davis was able to teach her first class.
In 1970 Jonathan Jackson, the younger brother of George Jackson who Angela Davis campaigned with burst into the Marin County courthouse with firearms that were registered to Angela Davis resulting in the deaths of four people. She was wanted for 3 Capital felonies including kidnapping, conspiracy and murder.
In 1970 Davis was on the FBI’s list of 10 Most Wanted fugitives, and was captured in New York by the FBI in October. Once considered a dangerous terrorist by then President Richard Nixon.
She spent 6 weeks in prison in NY and was then transported to CA where she would be charged and prosecuted..
While serving time in prison she wrote her first book ‘If They Come In The Morning’. It would be one of many books. Over 200 local committees worked to free Angela Davis from prison. John Lenon and Yoko Ono contributed to the campaign to free Angela Davis with their song “Angela”, it took 18 months before she would be acquitted of all charges by an all white jury.
I grew up with many posters decorating the walls of my home including one of Angela Davis. As a child not knowing or being able to understand the extent of this incredible woman’s background, I only knew her face and luxurious puff of hair, but to me she represented what the power of woman was all about, which is taking a stand for what you believe in, and I looked up to her, literally speaking as the poster was something I grew taller to see. I read that Dr. Angela Davis would be in Southern California speaking at Cal State Dominguez Hills.
FEBRUARY 11, 2019
The stadium packs in quickly, the bleachers were filled, then more people ventured inside the auditorium to stand. Dr. Davis walks in and has a seat up front. There she was in all her glory, looking incredible, with a beauty that disguised the maturity of her years. Just being in the same room with her, knowing about the lives and injustices she has seen and lived with, about to give a speech and there I was with my camera. Dr. Davis discussed many topics in her speech, now the microphone goes to Dr. Angela Davis…
WORDS OF ANGELA DAVIS
“When speaking about Black History month… Actually, they didn’t give us the 28 days, we took them, because I can remember when we only had a week.”
“All men are created equal refers to a very tiny minority in the country and so that universalization on the basis of a minority has excluded the vast majority of people. But if you begin with the excluded and you argue that black lives matter you argue that all lives truly matter.”
“There are many feminisms, not just one feminist movement. Let me ask you a question, what is the most widespread concept associated with feminism? What about the notion of intersectionality? Are you familiar with that? Ok, I would say that is the most widespread notion associated with feminism.”
“The death penalty was supposed to end around the time of the American Revolution, and it did in fact end for most offenses, for white people, but not for black people. It remained a very important part of slave law, if you look at the legal codes of the various slave states you will see. “
“How do you deal with all of that information? How do you organize it, raise questions about it? I think that everything deserves to be questioned. Especially those things that we most take for granted, because this is how ideology works. This is why something like the gender binary is so engraved in our ways of thinking, in our institutions. I always like to point out when we begin to do work with trans prisoners, we realize it’s not only about the rights of trans prisoners it is about the role that the prison plays as a gender apparatus.”
Updated 08.07.2019- On September 14, 2019 Dr. Angela Davis will be inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame for her historical achievements.
Article and Photographs by: Maggie St.Thomas