Figure In History: Angela Davis

By Brittany Plange


Angela Yvonne Davis was born on January 26, 1944 in Birmingham, AL and is one of the most important female figures in African-American history. She is best known as an activist for civil rights, education, and prison abolition. She obtained a bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University where she studied under Frankfurt school philosopher Hebert Marcuse. In an interview she stated, “Herbert Marcuse taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary.” In 1965 she graduated magna cum laude and went on to do her graduate studies at the University of California-San Diego. Towards the end of the 1960s she joined several groups, including the Black Panthers and the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black branch of the Communist Party. During 1969-1970 she taught at the University of California-Los Angeles until then Governor Ronald Reagan urged the Board of Regents to fire her due to her ties to the Communist Party. In August 1970 an escapee attempt was made in a courtroom and several people were killed. The three prisoners associated with the attempt were inmates of the Soledad Prison and were thus given the name The Soledad Brothers. Because of this and Davis’s social stance during the time she was brought up on several charges including murder. The justification for this was that the guns used were in her name and that she was allegedly in love with one of the prisoners. She fled California and the FBI director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover, put her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. In October 1970 she was found and apprehended and spent roughly 18 months in jail before she was acquitted of all charges. Since then she has written many books including Women, Race, and Class (1980) and Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003). She now teaches at the University of California-Santa Cruz on the history of consciousness and gives lectures at many different colleges, continuing to spread her wisdom to the next generation.