Angela Davis Biography - Social Justice Wiki
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Angela Davis Biography

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1944: Angela Davis is born in Birmingham, Alabama into a relatively well off Black family. Early in her childhood she experiences the negative effects of racism and questions the existence of racism in society.

1959: Davis decides to go to New York to expand her horizons and attends Elizabeth Irwin High School in Greenwich Village. Here she explores solutions to poverty and racism and becomes fascinated with the Communist Manifesto and communism. This experience would later prove to be life changing.

Fall 1961: Davis attends Brandeis University, which she finds isolating, both geographically and psychologically. She is one of two Black students in her freshman class.

Summer 1962: Davis goes to Europe to attend the Eighth World Festival for Youth and Students in Helsinki, Finland. She feels this is a great opportunity to meet revolutionary youths from around the world.

September 16, 1963: A church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama kills four girls who Davis knew from her childhood. This greatly impacts Davis and she feels it is the product of a racist, violent society and not just the act of a few angry individuals.

1964-1966: Davis returns to Paris where she studies French, but is drawn toward studying philosophy, Karl Marx, and communism. During her time abroad, much activism is brewing in the United States, and Davis desires to return home and become part of these movements.

Summer 1967: Davis hears Stokely Carmichael speak and is impressed with his vigor, but feels that this anger does not provide enough direction for the movement. The two disagree about the direction of the movement, as he dismisses Marxism as “a white man’s thing”, while Davis feels some form of communism or socialism is necessary to liberate Blacks.

1967: Davis moves to San Diego to continue studying philosophy. While there, she plays an important role in community activism, which includes aiding individuals in prison who do not have access to legal help as well as organizing rallies to spread her message. Here she faces the dilemma of being criticized for doing “a man’s job”, which exposes her to some of the struggles female activists face.

1968: Davis searches for an activist organization in which to participate. She settles on the Black Panther Party in Los Angeles, which is different than the Black Panther Party in Oakland organized by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton, but shares some of the ideas of this group. Davis also has close ties to SNCC at this time. Her activities include the creation of the SNCC Youth Corps, as well as the creation of the People’s Tribunal Committee that deals with police brutality and repression.

April, 1968: King is assassinated, which has a large effect on Davis and the organizations in which she is participating. Although King’s philosophy differs from Davis’, she is devastated by his death and the negative impact is felt throughout the Black community.

July 1968: Davis joins the Che-Lumumba Club, which was the Black cell of the Communist Party. This is an important point in her life because it officially associates her with the Communist Party. During this time she continues to work on her Ph.D at U.C. San Diego.

1969: Davis travels to Cuba which she feels has been completely misrepresented by American propaganda. This affirms her position that the only way to eradicate racism in the United States is to take a socialist route.

1970: Davis continues work on her Ph.D and becomes affiliated with George Jackson. She becomes heavily involved with his case.

August, 1970: A prison uprising occurs related to George Jackson’s case, and Angela Davis is accused of taking part in this. Davis is placed on the FBI's Most Wanted List and she flees California, but is eventually caught in New York.

1970: Davis spends time in prison in New York, and this experience allows her to see the dire state of prisons as well as give her an opportunity to discuss issues with prisoners. During this time she discusses her beliefs about communism and empowerment with prisoners, thus continuing her life of activism from within the walls of prison. She is later moved to California, where her case will be tried.

1971: While in prison in California, Davis takes part in the publication of a book entitled If They Come in the Morning.

August, 1971: George Jackson is killed in prison, having a profound effect on Angela Davis.

February, 1972: As a result of changed laws in California as well as the Free Angela campaign, Davis is finally given a bail hearing and is released from prison.

June 4, 1972: The jury of Davis’ case delivers a “not guilty” verdict and Angela is released from jail after two years of incarceration. The massive, international campaign to “Free Angela” feels responsible for putting pressure on the legal system to have Davis acquitted.

Fall, 1972: Even though California Governor Ronald Regan claimed that Angela Davis would never be allowed to teach again, Davis returns to the classroom and begins teaching again at San Francisco State University.

1975-1977: Davis works as a lecturer on African American Studies at Claremont College.

1979: Angela Davis visits the Soviet Union and is awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. She is also made an honorary professor at Moscow State University.

1980: Davis runs as the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Communist Party. Although the Communist Party does not receive many votes, Davis’ candidacy reveals that she is still a prominent public figure and activist.

1984: Davis runs again as the Vice-Presidential candidate for the Communist Party in the United States. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Davis continues her work as an academic, publishing multiple books and teaching and lecturing throughout the United States and the world.

October, 1995: Angela Davis shows her disgust with the exclusion of women in the Million Man March, as she believes it encourages chauvinism in Black activism and the Black community.

October, 1996: Davis goes to UCLA to speak out in protest against Proposition 209, which would ban affirmative action in University of California schools.

January 2006: Angela Davis is currently on sabbatical at UC Santa Cruz and continues to tour the world to protest oppression.