Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Angela Davis -- Aquarian

I remember Davis, now 67, as a fiercely outspoken black woman with a gorgeous Afro long before I understood the issues of civil rights (I think I was about 7 or 8 the first time I saw her on the news in our house, around 1969).

Davis's mother was active in the civil rights movement in Birmingham during the 1950s, which was Davis's first taste of community involvement, political philosophy, and communist theory in action. Later, she attended high school in Greenwich Village, which extended her knowledge of and taste for political activism and intellectual pursuits.

She attended Brandeis University, one of only three black students accepted her freshman year, and met Herbert Marcuse, who she credits with even more intellectual stimulus. She majored in French and went abroad during her junior year to France, studying at the Sorbonne for part of it. The news of the 1963 bombing of the church in Birmngham and the death of the four young girls inside personally affected her. Davis continued to study philosophy with Marcuse at Brandeis, and went to study in Frankfurt for a master's degree. After two years, she returned to the US to study with Marcuse in California, at UCSD.

She became known as a "radical feminist," activist, communist, and associate of Black Panthers. The result was she was fired from UCSD--twice.

Shortly after, Davis was connected by authorities to the kidnapping and murder of Judge Harold Haley and others during a courtroom riot. She became a fugitive, and was captured some months later by the FBI. At trial, Davis was found not guilty and acquitted of all charges.

Since that time, Davis has continued to be a scholar, activist, and leader in feminism and prison reform, although that is not how she describes her work. She is a writer, thinker, speaker, and teacher, working against racism, sexism, and the prison system in America as it now stands. Unsurprisingly, she is also against the war on terror as Homeland Security has held suspected terrorists without rights.

Davis is an intellectual activist: someone who not only thinks and writes about causes but champions them in public through word and act. She is also credited with being an extraordinary teacher who attempts to get her students to think critically about the social, philosophical, and practical questions of American culture and our relationship to human rights.

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