January 26, 2014

On this day January 26th

DARC Ethiophile Chronicles

On this day

Angela Yvonne Davis born on this day January 26, 1944.

Angela Yvonne Davis is a tenured professor in the “History of Consciousness” program at the University of California - Santa Cruz. A former member of the Black Panther Party, she is currently a “University Professor,” one of only seven in the entire California University system, which entitles her to a six-figure salary and a research assistant. This income is supplemented by speaking fees ranging from $10,000 to $20,000 per appearance on college campuses, where she is an icon of radical faculty, administrators, and students. Davis has also taught at UCLA and the State University of New York at Stony Brook. In September 1969 Davis was fired from UCLA when her membership in the Communist Party became known. This resulted in a celebrated First Amendment battle that made Davis a national figure and forced UCLA to rehire her.

In 1970 Davis was implicated by more than 20 witnesses in a plot to free her imprisoned lover, fellow Black Panther George Jackson, by hijacking a Marin County, California courtroom and taking hostage the judge, the prosecuting assistant district attorney, and two jurors. In an ensuing gun battle outside the court building, Judge Harold Haley’s head was blown off by a sawed-off shotgun owned by Ms. Davis. To avoid arrest for her alleged complicity in the plot, Ms. Davis fled California, using aliases and changing her appearance to avoid detection.

Two months later Davis was arrested by the FBI in New York City. At her 1972 trial, Davis presented her version of where she had been and what she had been doing at the time of the shootout. Because she was acting as her own attorney, she could not be cross-examined. She presented a number of witnesses, who testified that she had been with them in Los Angeles playing Scrabble at the time of the Marin slaughter. Prosecution witnesses who placed her in Marin were dismissed by Davis and her fellow attorneys as being unable to accurately identify blacks -- because they were white.

Following the announcement of the verdict that acquitted Davis, one juror faced news cameras and gave a revolutionary's clenched-fist salute. He laughed at the justice system, saying that prosecutors had been mistaken to expect that the “middle-class jury” would convict Davis. He and most of the jurors then went off to partake in a Davis victory party.

In 1979 Davis was awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize (formerly named the International Stalin Peace Prize) by the East German police state. This honor was given by a Soviet government-appointed panel that sought to recognize individuals who had “strengthened peace among peoples” by advancing the agendas of the Kremlin and its totalitarian regime.

Davis ran for Vice President of the United States in 1980 and 1984, alongside Gus Hall, on the Communist Party ticket.

Davis remained an active member of the Communist Party until 1991, when she was expelled for opposing the coup against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. She then formed the “Committees of Correspondence” to carry on the Communist mission with other Party members, including Bettina Aptheker (also a professor at UC Santa Cruz), Conn Hallinan (Provost at UC Santa Cruz), and Professor Harry Targ (Chair of the “Peace Studies” program at Purdue).

The "History of Consciousness" Program in which Davis teaches awarded a Ph.D. to Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton.

During the months preceding the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Davis was a frequent guest speaker at anti-war rallies.

Davis is the leader of her own movement against what she calls the “Prison-Industrial Complex,” claiming that all minorities in jail are actually “political prisoners” and should be released. Says Davis, “My question is, Why are people so quick to assume that locking away an increasingly large proportion of the U.S. population would help those who live in the free world feel safer and more secure? . . . How difficult it is to envision a social order that does not rely on the threat of sequestering people in dreadful places designed to separate them from their communities and their families.”

For Davis, every facet of life is weighted with political significance.

 

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