Angela Yvonne Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama on January 26, 1944. She grew up in the tumultuous “Dynamite Hill” neighborhood, which was marked by white supremacist terrorist attacks on black residents. Her mother worked for a civil rights organization heavily influenced by the Communist Party of the United States, so she grew up surrounded by revolutionary activists.
Davis attended an integrated high school in New York City’s Greenwich Village and received a full scholarship to Brandeis University. She met and studied with philosopher and radical Herbert Marcuse before moving to West Germany and enrolling at the University of Frankfurt. Davis visited East Germany and was astounded by how well the Easterners dealt with the Fascist legacy. Whereas the West allowed former Nazis to hold high positions in government, the East Germans actively opposed and combated Nazism and Hitler’s legacy.
The intensification of the struggle for black liberation drew Davis back to the United States. She began her teaching career at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1969. Davis became involved with the Black Panther Party and was also a member of the Communist Party. The Board of Regents fired her the same year for her revolutionary liberation views, which sparked outrage among her colleagues and other liberation activists. She was eventually reinstated because firing people for their political beliefs is illegal, only to be fired again on June 20, 1970, for allegedly “inflammatory” rhetoric.
This did not deter or distract her from her role in the liberation struggle. She was a staunch supporter of the Soledad Brothers, three black inmates accused of murdering a correctional officer. Jonathan Jackson, the charismatic Soledad Brothers’ youngest brother, took control of a courtroom in Marin County, California, on August 7, 1970, by arming the black defendants and holding Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors hostage. As Jackson attempted to transport the hostages and two convicts away from the courtroom, police opened fire on the vehicle, killing the judge and three black men.
Davis had purchased the weapons used in the incident just a few days before. Despite the fact that the murders were committed by police, she was eventually charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder, and a warrant was issued on August 14, 1970.
Davis was forced to flee California as a political fugitive in order to avoid massive police efforts to arrest and railroad her. The FBI apprehended her in New York City a few months later. As a result, thousands of people in the United States and around the world, including the Soviet Union, East Germany, South Africa, North Vietnam, and the People’s Republic of China, organized a massive campaign to free her. Around the world, supporters of the “Free Angela” movement raised funds, sent flowers and encouraging notes, and provided a variety of other vital moral and financial support. As a result of this effort, Davis was released from county jail on $100,000 bail in 1972 and later found not guilty by an all-white jury.
Davis went to Cuba after being acquitted and freed from the legal machinations and railroading attempts of the US and California governments, where she was greeted with warmth and solidarity by the masses of Afro-Cuban people. Davis was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1979, along with other freedom fighters such as W.E.B. DuBois, Sukarno, and Ahmed Sékou Touré. She is still a tireless fighter for the liberation of all human beings from all yokes of exploitation and oppression perpetrated by the global capitalist-imperialist system.