Primarily known as a political activist, Angela Davis began writing as a result of her activities within the Black Liberation movement of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Her work consistently explores the destructive influences of racism, sexism, and economic inequality on the development of African Americans, women, and the poor. Davis felt the full impact of racism beginning with her childhood, having been born and raised in segregated Birmingham. The racial inequality that prevailed particularly in the American South did much to shape her consciousness as an African American. In her autobiography, for example, she expresses her determination as a child to “never harbor or express the desire to be white” in spite of the fact that most whites lived what in comparison to hers was a privileged life.
Davis attended Elizabeth Irwin High School in New York. She studied philosophy at Brandeis University, the Sorbonne in Paris, the University of Frankfurt, and the University of California at San Diego. In 1968, she officially joined the Communist Party, having concluded that “the emancipation of all oppressed groups” could be achieved through the emancipation of the proletariat.
As a result of her membership in the Communist Party, the Board of Regents of the University of California fired Davis from her teaching position at UCLA in...
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Biography (The Sixties in America)
Born in Birmingham, one of the centers of the Civil Rights movement, Angela Yvonne Davis became a participant in political struggles at an early age. She lived with her parents, B. Frank and Sallye E. Davis, in a segregated neighborhood and attended segregated public schools. She took part in civil rights demonstrations with her mother, and homes in her neighborhood were bombed by white supremacists. After her second year of high school, Davis won a scholarship to attend a private school in New York, and in 1961, she won a scholarship to attend Brandeis University.
At Brandeis, Davis came into contact with Herbert Marcuse, a renowned Marxist philosophy professor, who convinced her that communism held the solution to African American oppression. After graduation in 1965, she studied in Germany and then earned a master’s degree at the University of California, San Diego. In San Diego, she became involved with several activist groups, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers. She joined the Communist Party in 1968 and became active in a black communist group, the Che-Lumumba club. In 1969, Davis took a job as assistant professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Her involvement in demonstrations and...
(The entire section is 628 words.)
Biography (Censorship (Ready Reference series))
Davis grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, where her parents were involved with the National Association of Colored People and the Southern Negro Youth Congress. She received a scholarship to attend a progressive private high school on scholarship in New York, where she first attended Communist Party youth meetings. After graduating from Brandeis University with high honors with a degree in 1965, she did graduate work in modern philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, then returned to the United States and earned her masters degree from the University of California at San Diego.
In 1968 she joined the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) and worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party. The following year she was hired as an assistant professor at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where she was completing work on her doctoral dissertation. Citing a state law that prohibited Communist Party members from teaching at state universities, California’s Governor Ronald Reagan fired Davis. Davis took her case to the courts, where the law under which she was fired was declared unconstitutional. After being reinstated at UCLA, she was again fired in 1970 because of her outspoken support of Jonathan Jackson and George Jackson, the...
(The entire section is 500 words.)
Biography (Identities & Issues in Literature)
Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Angela Davis’ most notable literary work, is the personal narrative of her development as an African American and feminist political activist. The autobiography explores how the forces of institutionalized racism shaped her consciousness as an African American and compelled her to seek political solutions. Her personal account also explores how her experiences as a woman in a movement dominated by males affected her awareness of the special challenges African American women face in overcoming sexism and racism.
The autobiography opens not with Davis’ birth but with her flight from California legal authorities. She was charged with murder and kidnapping in relation to a failed escape attempt at a California courthouse. Her constant self-awareness as an African American woman attempting to evade discovery within an overwhelmingly white society underscores the problems African Americans have in establishing their identity. From the writer’s perspective, the charges against her stemmed not from a legal system that seeks justice but from a legal system that works to destroy those who fight to change the system.
As a child in racially segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Davis’ fight to establish such an identity began at an early age. Growing up on “Dynamite Hill,” a racially mixed neighborhood that acquired its name from the frequent bombings of African American residences, she was, as a child, aware...
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Biography (Women's Issues (Ready Reference series))
Angela Davis was educated at an experimental high school in New York City, earned a B.A. from Brandeis University in French literature, and studied philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. A protégé of Marxist philosopher Herbert Marcuse, she has been a controversial figure since the 1960’s, advocating revolution and defending Black Power leaders. She has written a political autobiography, With My Mind on Freedom (1974), and edited a collection of writing by herself and other African American activists, If They Come in the Morning (1971). Her book Women, Race, and Class (1981) includes biographies of Communist women.
Aptheker, Bettina. The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis. 2d ed. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999. A chronicle of the trial that resulted from Davis’s association with the Soledad Brothers.
Davis, Angela. “Globalism and the Prison Industrial Complex: An Interview with Angela Davis.” Interview by Avery F. Gordon. Race and Class 40, nos. 2/3 (1998/1999): 145-157. Davis speaks about the prison system and the need for its reform.
Nadelson, Regina. Who Is Angela Davis? The Biography of a Revolutionary. New York: P. H. Wyden, 1972....
(The entire section is 246 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Angela Yvonne Davis was raised in the integrated section of Birmingham, Alabama, that was known as Dynamite Hill. Both of her parents had attended college and become teachers, although her father left the teaching profession because he could make a better living running a service station. In Angela Davis: An Autobiography the author criticizes the “Booker T. Washington syndrome” that afflicted the educational system in the South, where African Americans were promised falsely that they would be rewarded for their work.
In order to escape the South, Davis passed up the opportunity of early admission at Fisk University, a historically African American university in Nashville, Tennessee. Instead, she chose to attend Elisabeth Irwin High School in New York, taking advantage of a program designed to send African American students from the South to integrated high schools in the North. During her high school years Davis became acquainted with Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto (1848). She thereupon attended Brandeis University in Massachusetts and spent her junior year at the Sorbonne in Paris. She undertook graduate studies at the University of Frankfurt, Germany, and at the University of California, San Diego. At one point she studied under Herbert Marcuse. Davis began teaching at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1969,...
(The entire section is 942 words.)