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#UNBlackHistoryMonth: Angela Davis

Angela Davis has spent half a century dedicated to education, activism and Black liberation. Just last year, in the midst of the heightened racial tensions and civil unrest in America, Angela Davis was out protesting. A sad reminder of just how little things have changed, to have someone who’s footprints in the movement date as far back as the 60s, still fighting for racial justice.

Born in Birmingham Alabama in 1944, she spent much of her early life as an organizer. Davis organized interracial study groups that were targeted and broken up by the police. Her affiliation with the Black Panthers started while she was a graduate student at Brandeis University in Massachusetts. She joined the communist party, specifically the Che-Lumumba Club which is an all-Black branch of the party.

This would ultimately impact her career as an educator, once the administration found out about her affiliation with the communist party, they terminated her from her job as a professor at the University of California. Davis fought them in court, which resulted in her being reinstated.

Davis would rise to national prominence due to her involvement in a murder case that took place in the 1970s. She heavily supported the Soledad Brothers, three prison inmates at Soledad Prison in California. John W. Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Lester Jackson. They were accused of killing a prison guard after several African American inmates had been killed in a fight by another guard.

During the investigation, Angela Davis is implicated in the murder of Judge Haley based on two key pieces of evidence. One, the shotgun used to execute Haley was registered in her name, and purchased just days before the event. Two, she was allegedly in love with George Lester Jackson. This was enough information for a warrant to be issued for her arrest.

Facing murder, conspiracy, and kidnapping charges, Davis evaded the authorities for two months before being apprehended in October 1970. At the time, she became the third woman in history to be placed on the FBI’s most wanted fugitives list. President Richard Nixon publicly congratulated the FBI on capturing "the dangerous terrorist Angela Davis." In 1972, after spending at least 16 months in prison, Davis was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury.

Davis would continue her career as an educator, teaching classes about history and consciousness at the University of California until retiring in 2008.

When asked about the protests of today, Angela Davis has hope for a better America: “We’ve never witnessed sustained demonstrations of this size that are so diverse,” she added. “So I think that is what is giving people a great deal of hope.”