Angela Davis

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"Putting People First" was a communist slogan long before the Clinton's adopted it.

Angela Yvonne Davis is a self-identified lesbian radical feminist Communist retired professor (from the University of California, Santa Cruz) and leftist activist on social and human rights issues who had close relations with the Black Panther Party during the Civil rights movement.[1] Davis was also a prominent member of the Communist Party USA. She is currently Professor of History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz.[2]

Early life

Davis was raised, she told Julian Bond, by a mother who was “an officer of the Southern Negro Youth Congress,” an organization completely under the control of the Communist Party, and “was involved in the campaign to free the Scottsboro Nine.”

And as a child, I had the opportunity to spend time with black communists who had come to Birmingham to help organize there, to help organize the Southern Negro Youth Congress. … I often tell people that later, when I joined the Communist Party, it was a difficult decision because I always considered the Communist Party so conservative. It was my parents' friends, you know, I wanted to do something more interesting and more radical, but … I'm following in my mother's footsteps … My parents knew who was a member of the Communist Party and who was underground...”[3]

While still a child, her parents sent Davis to New York City, where she lived with Herbert Aptheker, the Communist Party's chief theoretician (and a child molester),[4] and his family. In New York City, Davis studied at the Little Red Schoolhouse (LRS), notorious for its Communist faculty and student body, including future Weather Underground terrorist Kathy Boudin, then at Elisabeth Irwin High School, an adjunct of LRS.

In 1961, she won a scholarship to Brandeis University, where she would become a student to Herbert Marcuse.[5][6] In 1968 Davis joined the Communist Party, even as Soviet tanks rolled into Czechoslovakia to crush the “Prague spring.”

In an attempt to clean up radicalism at college campuses, President Ronald Reagan urged the dismissal of Davis from UCLA because of her membership in the Communist Party.[7]

Haley murder

Davis FBI poster.jpg

In 1970, Marin Count Judge Harold Haley's head was blown off by a sawed-off shotgun in a hostage incident in which members of the Black Panthers attempted to free Davis' lover, Black Panther member George Jackson. Jackson's younger brother took the judge, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages and armed the defendants.[8][9] Davis had purchased several of the firearms used in the attack,[10] including the shotgun used to kill the judge.[11] Davis was also found to have corresponded with Jackson.[12] California considers "all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense... principals in any crime so committed", and a warrant for her arrest was issued. J. Edgar Hoover listed Davis on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List; the third woman to ever be listed[13] behind Ma Barker and Bernardine Dohrn. She was apprehended and John Abt, general counsel of the Communist Party USA, represent her.[14] Davis was eventually acquitted of any role in the plotting and execution of the crime.

People Temple

Jim Jones initiated friendships with progressives in the area including Angela Davis and Dennis Banks of the American Indian Movement (AIM).[15] Angela Davis addressed the crowd in Jonestown via shortwave radio in the days just prior to the final "white night."[16][17] In her statement Davis expressed support for the People's Temple and told members there was a conspiracy against them. She said,
"when you are attacked, it is because of your progressive stand, and we feel that it is directly an attack against us as well."[18]


In 1979 Davis was awarded the International Lenin Peace Prize (formerly named the International Stalin Peace Prize) by the Communist government of East Germany. Davis ran for Vice President of the United States in 1980 and 1984, alongside Gus Hall, on the Communist Party ticket.

See also


  1. PBS Frontline interview
  2. Faculty bio at UC Santa Cruz
  3. Angela Davis, interviewed by Julian Bond, Explorations in Black Leadership (University of Virginia). Cf. Phyllis Leffler, Black Leaders on Leadership: Conversations with Julian Bond (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) ISBN 113734251X, pp. 191-192
  4. Bettina Aptheker, Intimate Politics: How I Grew Up Red, Fought for Free Speech, and Became a Feminist Rebel (Seal Press, 2011) ISBN 1580054404
  5. Germany and the Americas: O-Z
  6. Marxism, Revolution and Utopia: Collected Papers of Herbert Marcuse, Volume Six, Volume 6
  7. African Americans and Criminal Justice: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia
  8. Aptheker, Bettina (1997). The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis. Cornell University Press. 
  9. "Search broadens for Angela Davis", August 17, 1970. Retrieved on September 14, 2009. 
  10. Angela Davis’ Archive Comes to Harvard. Smithsonian Magazine (16 February 2018). Retrieved on 7 February 2019.
  11. "A Shotgun That Miss Davis Purchased Is Linked to the Fatal Shooting of Judge", The New York Times, April 18, 1972. Retrieved on February 7, 2019. 
  12. Freedom on My Mind. Bedford/St. Martin's. ISBN 978-0-312-64884-8. 
  13. Biography. Davis (Angela) Legal Defense Collection, 1970–1972. Retrieved on June 14, 2013.
  14. (1993) Advocate and Activist: Memoirs of an American Communist Lawyer. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-02030-8. 
  15. Scheers, Julia (2011). A Thousand Lives: the Untold Story of Jonestown. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781451628968. Retrieved on February 5, 2019. 
  16. (1982) Raven (book). Dutton. ISBN 978-0-525-24136-2. 
  17. Angela Davis & the Six Day Siege. Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple.
  18. Statement of Angela Davis (Text). Alternative Considerations of Jonestown & Peoples Temple. Retrieved on February 5, 2019.

External links