One of the most prominent female figures in the Black Panther Party was Angela Davis, a human rights activist, professor and cultural icon. Davis is a controversial figure, but she also is an example of a black lesbian leader that deserves to be recognized for her contributions to the African-American and LGBT community.
Today, in 1972, Angela Davis was acquitted of charges for conspiracy, murder and kidnapping after being accused of supplying weapons to Jonathan Jackson. While in jail, fellow civil rights activists and Black Panther Party members rallied for her release:
Davis came to LIVE in October of 2010 for one of our biggest landmark events to talk with Toni Morrison about the importance of libraries.
ANGELA DAVIS: I was in jail in New York—I don’t know, did you mention that I was in jail? Some people don’t know. And one of the first places I went, I was able to go, in the jail was the library, and I didn’t see very many interesting books there, all right? I mean, I had just finished my studies in philosophy, and I went to the library expecting something very different, so what I did was I had people send books to me when I was there, and I wanted to share those books with all of the other women, there was something like a thousand women there. I was not allowed to do that. As a matter of fact, in the library there was a big cardboard box.
I could receive the books and I could read the books myself. It was okay for me read them, but don’t share them. And one of them was George Jackson’s book, Soledad Brothers, that was not allowed at all, although we did—you know, one of the things I learned when I was in jail there was how to secrete certain kinds of things, so we were able to—so we had these clandestine reading groups with books that were smuggled out of that box in the library, and it kind of reminded me of Frederick Douglass and Frederick Douglass’s effort to get an education, to learn how to read, and his idea that education really was liberation.
Paint it Black series: 22/29 Angela Davis
an American political activist, scholar, and author. Davis emerged as a nationally prominent activist in the 1960s, when she was associated with the Communist Party USA, the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Panther Party. Prisoner rights have been among her continuing interests; she is the founder of “Critical Resistance”, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She is a retired professor with the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz and is the former director of the university’s Feminist Studies department. Her research interests are in feminism, African American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music and social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons.
Her membership in the Communist Party led to Ronald Reagan’s request in 1969 to have her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California. She was tried and acquitted of suspected involvement in the Soledad brothers’ August 1970 abduction and murder of Judge Harold Haley in Marin County, California.