BIOGRAPHY: Angela Davis – Activist, Scholar and Author - The Heroine Collective (2024)

I wasn’t seeking fame. I wasn’t seeking notoriety. I just wanted to be a teacher and an activist.

These were the simple desires of Professor Angela Davis, born in 1944. She has written prolifically on feminism, race, freedom and, through her work at Critical Resistance, challenges the penal system as well as wider modes of oppression. This questioning is still extremely pertinent today in light of the ongoing challenges of racist state violence in the US.

Davis was born in the Southern state of Alabama, when racial segregation was still enforced and her mother was involved in communist-inspired groups. She said of this time that “in a sense learning how to oppose the status quo was a question of survival”. Davis was accepted onto a programme placing black Southern students into integrated Northern schools, where she became more formally active in communist organisations.

1963 was a momentous year for her.While a freshman at Brandeis University, Massachusetts, Davisattended the World Festival of Youth and Students in Finland. On her return, aged nineteen, the FBI interviewed her about the Communist-sponsored festival. 1963 was also the year a KKK member bombed a Church in Birmingham, Alabama killing several of Davis’ personal acquaintances.

Following further study in North America and East Berlin she became acting assistant professor in philosophy at the University of California, LA, in 1969. The then California governor Ronald Reagan urged the board to fire her due to her Communist affiliations. After initially resuming her post, only a year later she was fired for “inflammatory language” such as “her repeated characterizations of the police as ‘pigs.’”

1970 would also prove a turning point in Davis’ life. Not only was she fired from her job on political grounds but she was charged with murder. On 7th August Jonathan Jackson, a 17-year-old African-American took hostages and two black convicts from a courtroom. This resulted in the deaths of the three black men and a judge after a police shoot-out. The firearms used by Jackson were allegedly registered in Davis’name. She was quickly put on the FBI’s most wanted list and found some days later in New York City. After declaring her innocence there was widespread organisation for her release with 200 committees created in the US and 67 abroad. With lack of evidence to convict her, theall-white jury eventually came to a not guilty verdict and she was released in 1972.

Following her release, Davis continued engaging with communist thought and activism in general. She visited Cuba and strongly believed that it was racism-free because of its socialist state. In 1979, she was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, which she received from the USSR.

Her writings on prisons can be considered thought-provoking studies into the value of the penal system. She claims the greatest flaw of the prison is that it “materially and morally impoverishes its inhabitants” and critiques the state for pumping money into caging convicts rather than tackling the interlocking problems of poverty, racism and class bias. “By segregating people labelled as criminals, prison simultaneously fortifies and conceals the structural racism of the U. S. economy.” Davis fears that the already marginalised are pushed even further into desperation and fall into a “vicious cycle of punishment.” She co-founded Critical Resistance in order to abolish the “prison industrial complex”.

Although Davis was involved with two organisations that were considered extremely radical during the 70s – the Communists and Black Panthers – her writings are still valuable today. In 2014, Davis noted that while “racist state violence” has been continuous in the history of African-Americans, it has been particularly remarkable during the presidency of Barack Obama. She interprets the global response to recent racist police brutality as demonstrating an increasing awareness of the unrelenting nature of racism in the US when it is supposed to be fizzling out. Davis even believes that the ‘elements for a global movement against racism’ exist.

Davis claimed “I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement”. Important as movements are, she is an extraordinary individual. She was a communist in the US during the Cold War; a Black Panther when the FBI Director had deemed it “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country”, and is still someone who seeks to counter all forms of oppression, to ensure that “everyone learns how to respect the environment and all of the creatures, human and non-human alike, with whom we cohabit our world.”

References include:Davis, A. (1998) Masked Racism: Reflections on the Prison Industrial Complex //Davis, A. (2013) Transcript: Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Closures and Continuities //Davis, A. (2014) From Michael Brown to Assata Shakur, the racist state of America persists, The Guardian.©The Heroine Collective 2015 – Present, All Rights Reserved.


BIOGRAPHY: Angela Davis – Activist, Scholar and Author - The Heroine Collective (2024)


Who is Angela Davis and why is she famous? ›

Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American Marxist and feminist political activist, philosopher, academic, and author; she is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

What role did Angela Davis play in the civil rights movement? ›

Angela Yvonne Davis is a prominent political activist, scholar, and author. She emerged as the leader of Communist Party USA in the 1960s and had close ties to the Black Panther Party. She has advocated for the abolishment of prisons and the prison-industrial complex.

What are Angela Davis books about? ›

Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today's struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement.

Is Angela Davis a delta? ›

She is a member of the local and national chapters of the National Association of Black Journalists and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Angela is the mother of two college students.

What important events did Angela Davis do in her life? ›

She participated in an international speaking tour and accepted invitations to visit several communist countries, including Cuba, the Soviet Union, and East Germany. Angela also founded several advocacy organizations, including the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.

Who was the woman black civil rights leaders? ›

Please join us in celebrating Black History Month by learning more about the important work of these black feminists: Sojourner Truth, Anna Julia Cooper, Ida B. Wells, Francis Ellen Watkins Harper, Mary Church Terrell, Shirley Chisholm, Pauli Murray, Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks and Audre Lorde.

Who was the civil right movement woman? ›

Women were the backbone of the MCRM from small towns to the national movement. Women played a crucial role as strategists and advocates. They participated despite the dangers including violence, homelessness, unemployment, sexual assault, and death.

Who is known as the mother of the black civil rights movement? ›

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott, 1955–1956

Parks soon became the symbol of the resulting Montgomery bus boycott and received national publicity. She was later hailed as the "mother of the civil rights movement".

What is Angela Davis passionate about? ›

Her interests inprisoner rights led her to found Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. Davis is the author of several books including Women, Race, and Class (1983) and Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003).

What does Angela Davis mean when she says freedom is a constant struggle? ›

She highlights connections and analyzes today's struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine. Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build the movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that "Freedom is a constant struggle."

How many books has Angela Davis made? ›

Answer and Explanation: Angela Davis has wrttien twelve books on a variety of topics that include the following: The American Prison System: Davis believes that it needs to abolished entirely. Palestine: The Palestinian people are being persecuted by Israel.

Is Oprah a Delta? ›

fit. the conclusion that Oprah is a Delta? make it clear that she is not.

Who are the Delta Girls? ›

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

(ΔΣΘ) is a historically African American sorority. The organization was founded by college-educated women dedicated to public service with an emphasis on programs that assist the African American community.

Who are the deltas brother? ›

Traditionally then at the founders' Howard University Alpha Chapter, the Ques and the Deltas were brothers and sisters in Greek life. This spread throughout the nation as Delta & Que Chapters were founded on various college campuses.

Is Angela Davis a role model? ›

Angela Davis, another great example of strength and fortitude, Angela has a long history in fighting for the rights of the marginalized and oppressed. She has done this for virtually her entire life. Even today, she serves as a role model for Black women against the tyranny of fascism, sexism, and racism.

Who is Angela Davis sister? ›

"Fania Jordan, sister of Angela Davis"


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