For Black History Month, backHer is spotlighting one influential woman each week who helped change the course of history. This week we are honored to feature Angela Davis. Davis is a civil rights activist, scholar, politician, professor, and author. She has worked extensively in her life (and still does to this day at the age of 73) to combat all forms of oppression in the world.
Davis was born in 1944 in Alabama. She was born in an area called “Dynamite Hill.” The reason why her hometown was called that is because so many African American homes had been bombed by the KKK (Ku Klux Klan). Davis studied for many years, both abroad and in the U.S. Davis was very active in organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Black Panther Party, and the American Communist Party.
After graduating, Davis got a job teaching at the University of California. There she ran into trouble due to her association with communism. The school board fired her, but she fought them in court and was able to get her job back. Davis is passionate about many things. Civil rights, social justice issues, gay rights, gender equality, racism in the criminal justice system, and more. She also speaks out about the reason why she is vegan- because of the injustice that humans cause to animals, and how it’s speciesist.
In the early 1970’s, Davis became a supporter of the Soledad Brothers who had been imprisoned in the 1960s. She was charged with aiding and the escapee attempt of George Jackson, and spent 18 months in jail before being acquitted in a federal trial.
After Davis was free, she continued to travel and lecture. She has lectured in every single one of the fifty United States. She has also taught in Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. Davis is the author of nine books. Some of these include Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Women, Race, and Class, Are Prisons Obsolete?, and The Meaning of Freedom. A critically acclaimed documentary called Free Angela has also been made about her.
Davis is currently a Distinguished Professor Emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she was a professor in the History of Consciousness Department, the Humanities Division, and the Feminist Studies Department. She is still a passionate activist, and recently attended the Women’s March in January where she gave a powerful and moving speech. During one part of her speech, she said: “The freedom struggles of black people that have shaped the very nature of this country's history cannot be deleted with the sweep of a hand. We cannot be made to forget that black lives do matter. This is a country anchored in slavery and colonialism, which means for better or for worse the very history of the United States is a history of immigration and enslavement. Spreading xenophobia, hurling accusations of murder and rape and building walls will not erase history. No human being is illegal.”