Angela Davis - Social Justice Wiki
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Angela Davis

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Behind that Big ‘Ol Afro:

Will the Real Angela Davis Please Stand Up?

The commodification of revolution has shown that America finds attitudes and symbols of insurrection as in style. From the T-shirts emblazed with Che's fiery to the comeback of the Castro hats, revolution is the hip thing to wear. Castro and Che Guevera are simple examples of how fashion can overtake revolution. There is one woman whose revolutionary image has concealed her true identity. There have been T-shirts. There have been pins. Most of all there have been posters. When these forms of propaganda arrived, their aim was to either capture her or liberate her. However, both forms functioned to cage her. Those posters gave this woman, not a revolutionary face, but style. She is Angela Davis. Several images come to mind at the mention of her name, especially that afro. She has struggled to emerge from the dark shadow that her voluminous afro has cast from the light that first gave Angela Davis her fame decades ago. This website is her emergence.


On my bedroom wall is a big poster

Of Angela Davis who is in prison

For nothing at all


WANTED. Immense letters in a powerful font atop the FBI poster. White caps. Clear message. This black woman with a big afro is wanted for: interstate flight, murder, and kidnapping. The feds wanted her so badly, that they rushed to print posters with kidnapping missing one “P.”


Angela Davis’ face is shrouded by the massive black halo that overshadowed typical features used for search tactics like: eye color, moles, and distinctive attributes.

The witch-hunt for a woman, who fought for the liberation of all people, easily became a means to attack a community of people, not just Angela Davis. Black women across the nation were being pulled over in cars, stopped on the street, and accosted for being black while wearing a “natural.” It was not just Angela Davis who was a fugitive, but also any black woman whose hair was coiffed into a black corona.


The trap was set for Angela Davis with these pictures and posters. She was no different than her enslaved ancestors whose faces were publicized as fugitive slaves up and down the eastern seaboard. Her charge? Being affiliated with too many –isms. She had feminism, communism, Black Nationalism, and prison reformism all under her belt. Thus, she was guilty as charged. However, this is who Angela Davis was depicted to be, not who she actually is. Successfully, beneath the afro that propagandized Angela Davis gave America is a collection of radical –isms, a phantasmal philosophy that does not explain who the real Angela Davis is. Sister Angela believes her afro "reduces a politics of liberation to a politics of fashion."


If I could be as brave as her when I get older

I’ll be OK.


What Angela Davis has chosen to identify with and use for the means of liberating black people in America, has been the backbone for her intellectual growth. All of the ideologies in which she believes have acted as a foundation for how she analyzes the plight of blacks. So when people singularly brand her with titles like Communist that have their own stigmas, especially in the eyes of blacks. So with this challenge, she pressed ahead to produce words that would join her beliefs about what would bring about black liberation in ways that appeal to her people first, and to others second. She created a people’s intellectualism.

Angela Davis’ thoughts are what have set her apart from other leaders of her time. While her actions and methods to create revolution have become outdated and old, unlike her afro, her thinking has not gone out of style. At the age of 26, Davis was fervent in her belief that she is first a black woman, and that her thinking has been informed by this fact. Thus, the intellectual work she has done was for the benefit of all blacks, and within that comes thoughts of black feminism. Contrary to belief by some black men as demonstrated on the site blacktown.net, Angela Davis’ feminist background is beneficial for black people given that black women raise a majority of the race alone. If black women as a whole have rights and opportunities denied to them because of their race and gender, it makes it better for their children, and thus the race. Such a philosophy is informed by identity and allows for growth of the male dominated black liberation movement.

Those thoughts are what will always live beyond a nostalgic era. Angela Davis did not leave those thoughts in that era either, she has made it her lifestyle through her work as a public speaker, professor, and writer. She is brave for not allowing herself to be contained within a period of time, her thoughts will always be in style.


My dad says she’ll be putting on a brave face.

He brought me a badge home which I wore

to school. It says FREE ANGELA DAVIS


Yes, free Angela Davis. Free her from the holds of an icon, but not simply a revolutionary. She is a black. She is militant. We know the facts, but not why she is militant and how that is shaped by her being black. Since she is also the woman who made the Afro popular to white America, she has been reduced to a symbol. Angela Davis is more than that. Angela Davis is a communist. Angela Davis is a feminist. Angela Davis is a Prison Abolitionist. Angela Davis is a revolutionary. This website will show how.

Angela Davis is larger than the afro that has become her label. Angela Davis is greater than the connotations that simplistically are attached to that afro. Angela Davis is not an afro. She is a fighter. She is a thinker. She is a sister. She is a woman. She is a person. She is an individual. She is greater than any afro.

Free Angela Davis.


Poem excerpts from The Adoption Papers by Jackie Kay

Links

Democracy Now! Roundtable Discussion on the Prison Industrial Complex with Assata Shakur

Interview with PBS

Who Angela Is Not


Published Works

  • Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974)
  • Women, Race and Class (1981)
  • Violence Against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism (1985)
  • Women, Culture, and Politics (1989)
  • The Angela Y. Davis Reader (1998)
  • Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (1998)
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003)





Created By: Michelle Behrens, Joy Cooper, Shaw Natsui, David Williams