Angela Davis Critical Context - Essay

Critical Context

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The timeliness and immediate marketability of Davis’s story led Angela Davis to be written soon after the author’s acquittal and to be published by a major publisher, Random House. (Davis’s editor at Random House was Toni Morrison, who would later earn renown as a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Nobel laureate.) The book was reprinted in 1988 by International Publishers, a small, left-wing publishing house based in New York.

Angela Davis is not a much-studied text, yet it deserves attention as an articulate, intellectual, and political memoir; an intriguing evocation of African American autobiographical and textual traditions; and a powerful if undeniably radical critique of American society. It is also a valuable historical document. Students of grassroots activism or of American political history at large can use Angela Davis as a touchstone for their research, and might do well to begin by evaluating Davis’s claims.

At the time of the book’s publication in 1974, Davis had only recently gained notoriety as a revolutionary, a fugitive, and a purported criminal. The book is thus written from a short time perspective, but with the thoughtfulness and self-awareness of a highly intelligent narrator intent on bringing to bear her understanding of recent important events in which she was intimately involved. Davis intended her autobiography both to illustrate the need for “communal struggle” to alter radically the nature of American society and to inspire others to follow her example of uncompromising opposition to injustice.