Angela Davis: An Autobiography,
Random House, 1974, revised edition, 1990.
In Angela Davis: An Autobiography . She has eloquently wrote down her story and intelligently named each chapter nets, rocks, waters, flames, walls, and brides each name symbolizing a step in her life. Her autobiography details how her aims to help oppressed individuals found expression in the political ideals of communism.
In the chapter nets and rocks she lays the foundation of her life she describes her upbringing and her way of life as a child. Angela Yvonne Davis was born January 26, 1944, to B. Frank, a teacher and businessman, and Sally E. Davis, who was also a teacher. Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, at a time of great political unrest and racism in the United States. Davis experienced exposure to multiple socio-economic systems throughout her youth. She participated in civil rights demonstrations and helped form interracial study groups while being a Birmingham, Alabama, teenager. As a child, Davis’ parents had many Communist friends and she later joined a Communist youth group while a scholarship student from the American Friends Service Committee at Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York.
About her early introduction to communism, she states in her autobiography that the Communist Manifesto (the declaration of principles and objectives of the Communist League a secret organization of migr German artisans and intellectuals, published in London in 1848, shortly before the February Revolution in Paris written by Karl Marx) hit her like a bolt of lightning. She read it eagerly, finding in it answers to many of the seemingly unanswerable dilemmas which had plagued her. She began to see the problems of black people within the context of a large working-class movement. Her ideas about black liberation were inexact, and she could not find the right concepts to articulate them; still, she was acquiring some understanding about how capitalism could be abolished. She continues, explaining the connection between communism and minority liberation, by saying that what struck her so emphatically was the idea that once the emancipation of the proletariat became a reality, the foundation was laid for the emancipation of all oppressed groups in society.
Davis traveled to Germany in 1960, where she spent two years studying at the Frankfurt School under acclaimed teacher Theodor Adorno. From 1963 to 1964, Davis attended the University of Paris. Davis then returned to the United States and attended Brandeis University, in Waltham, Massachusetts. After earning her B.A. and graduating magna cum laude in 1965, Davis flew to Germany, where she conducted graduate research. Upon returning to the U.S., Davis enrolled at the University of California at San Diego, where she began pursuing her master’s degree, which she received in 1968. . In addition, while in college, she studied under political philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who considered her the best student he ever taught. At the University of California, San Diego, she participated in several activist organizations, including the San Diego Black Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; she also helped found the Black Students Council.
Davis became a member of the Communist party, as well as a member of the Black Panthers. It was her involvement in these radical groups that caused Davis to be watched very closely by the United States government. After teaching for only one year, it was also these radical associations that resulted in her dismissal from her position as assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California at Los Angeles
In the chapters waters, flames, and walls she speaks about what troubles her crusade for the liberation of black people. Davis allied herself mostly with the Che-Lumumba Club, a black faction of the Los Angeles Party membership. The black Communists of the Che-Lumumba Club had already declared their goal as the liberation of black peoples in the Los Angeles area through application of Marxist-Leninist philosophies when Davis officially joined the party in July, 1968. Her search for a revolutionary community with which to involve herself did not end with her membership in the Communist Party . She also actively initiated militant demonstrations and protests designed to focus public attention on the plight of minorities. Her radical views eventually interfered with her career as an educator as well. In 1969, the Board of Regents of the University of California dismissed her from the faculty; a court order reinstated her after. However, the University of California, Los Angeles, did not renew her contract in 1970, even after her rating as an “excellent” and reasonably unbiased teacher by the administration. The American Association of University Professors censured the institution for its decision, and a final attempt by the philosophy department to reinstate her in 1972 failed.
At the same time, with her professional difficulties, Davis’ radical beliefs led to her involvement in a 1970 prison break. Political prisoner George Jackson and others attempted to escape from the Marin County, California, courthouse. The situation turned into a shoot-out. Jackson’s attempt to liberate several prisoners from the Marin County courthouse the guns with which the young revolutionary armed the prisoners were claimed to be registered in Angela s name. In connection with the incident, Angela Davis was charged with kidnapping, conspiracy, and murder. Her following imprisonment and trial stirred up international concern and interest; she was ultimately acquitted of all charges.
During her imprisonment a public outcry came in for Angela the next morning, about 300 people again gathered outside the federal courthouse for the arraignment of Angela and David Poindexter who was arrested with her and charged with harboring a fugitive. A caravan of seven unmarked cars brought them to the heavily guarded courthouse along a route apprehensively staked out by the FBI. Inside the building, federal marshals announced to a crowd that had been waiting for hours that only 14 people plus press would be allowed to attend the preliminary hearing before the US Commissioner. Plain-clothes pigs searched everyone who entered.
The hearing was solely to set bail on the charge of “Unlawful flight to avoid prosecution” for Angela and “Harboring a fugitive” for David Poindexter. But the aged Commissioner had made clear that he was basing his decision on the California case. When the US attorney asked for $250,000 bail for Angela and $100,000 for Poindexter, the Commissioner immediately granted it.
Defense attorneys pointed out that Angela was only charged here with violating the fugitive statute, which has a maximum penalty of $500 and 5 years, and added that Angela had not participated in the California events, but at most might have purchased the guns.
As Angela left the room under heavy guard, people crowded around her, and one sister called out, “Angela, we love you. Everybody loves you from coast to coast. We’re gonna free you.” Angela smiled. “ANGELA, SISTER, YOU ARE WELCOME IN THIS HOUSE” -sign in windows all over the US in support of Miss Davis.
In Bridges, the last chapter, Davis’ controversial behavior has not lessened since her prison and courtroom experiences. She adopts, however, more conventional methods for spreading her ideologies than she perhaps once did. She has immersed herself in the Communist Party, lecturing around the world. Even within the Communist Party, her activities have followed more traditional political avenues to effect change: in the 1980 U.S. Presidential election, Angela Davis was the vice-presidential candidate of the Communist Party.
I have so much respect for Angela Davis. She has devoted her life to the struggle for human dignity. This book shows that she is extremely intelligent, articulate, and has a beautiful soul. After growing up hearing the establishment s propaganda about Ms. Davis and the people’s movement, it was refreshing to read the truth about the revolution in the words of a true revolutionary.