Angela Davis + Epilogue Summary and Analysis
In her junior year at Brandeis University, Angela Davis was in Biarritz, France, on a study abroad program. There, she saw news that four girls had died from a church bombing in Birmingham, the city in which she grew up. Davis knew three of them personally. Angela’s parents, especially Sallye, had instilled anti-racist ideas in Angela, and she attended an integrated high school in Manhattan, where she became a socialist. At Brandeis University, she saw James Baldwin and then Malcolm X speak. The church bombing symbolized to her the ongoing resistance to the Civil Rights Bill which was passed after Kennedy's assassination.
When Malcolm X traveled to his Islamic homeland, he was struck by the interaction of people of all colors and decided that he would no longer make blanket indictments against whites. However, he continued to be known as antagonistic towards white people. His view on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was that it was unlikely to actually be enforced.
President Lyndon B. Johnson, meanwhile, was worried about ongoing protests against Klan brutality and the interracial Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. He offered the protestors a compromise of two nonvoting seats to accompany the segregationist delegation, but this was rejected. After this, the group realized that “liberation,” rather than technical civil rights, were the goal. In 1965, one of the leaders of the group, Malcolm X, was shot at a Harlem rally. Anti-racists honored him, but in the mainstream press he was remembered in a negative light.
In 1965, after the voting rights bill was passed, Johnson noted that it is impossible to “liberate” a group hobbled for years by simply “freeing” them and stating that things are now fair. Huge disparities existed, and inherited poverty and discrimination were the chief causes. Still, Black voter turnout increased hugely after this act was passed, despite ongoing obstacles to Black voting.
The press began to push the angle of the “splintering Negro family,” which was supposedly hampered by illegitimacy and welfare cases. Words like “minority” and “ghetto” were used to describe Blacks negatively. As the Black Power movement rose, it was condemned for any violence it utilized. The Black Panther Party and other organizations grew but were criticized for “reverse racism,” despite the fact that they contended with racism in the form of slumlords and police brutality. Now in Germany, Angela Davis read about this movement and decided to return to the US and finish her doctorate at UC San Diego.
Davis helped build the Black Student Union at UCSD and felt energized by a Black Youth Conference where African fabrics were worn. Some activists were separatists; others were socialists. Meanwhile, Dr. Martin Luther King was moving away from desegregation and assimilation, realizing this had simply benefited Black elites, and towards an economic bill of rights which echoed Black Panther policies. Here he separated individual racism from institutional racism: “law and order” became the cry of both Democrats and Republicans in 1968, and both felt that Blacks were the enemy of this principle.
Meanwhile, Malcolm X follower Eldridge Cleaver was urging Blacks to recognize that they had been diminished by a society that had placed them in opposition to its structures of power. Shockingly, the Kerner Commission agreed and blamed societal racism for recent urban race rebellions, to the fury of Nixon and others. Johnson created a second commission to investigate the same issue; this one recommended an increase on police spending and weaponry.
After King’s assassination, Davis helped organize a rally, which was echoed in 125 cities—all were put down by police. The Black Power movement grew enormously as a result of King’s assassination. A search for Black perspectives in schools and society began, and Black studies departments were instituted. In the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee...
(The entire section is 2,762 words.)