Dr. Angela Y. Davis can currently be found dropping knowledge in UC Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness department, and make no mistake: the woman does not play games. It’s not even funny how few games she plays.
But seriously, who is she?
There’s a great opportunity to find out on April 5, when Shola Lynch’s new documentary Free Angela Davis & All Political Prisoners enjoys a nationwide theatrical release. (Sidebar: This flick + Jurassic Park 3D will probably be my weekend double feature). The film charts the popular movement to secure Dr. Davis’ release from prison in the early 1970s, when the civil rights activist was charged with aiding the perpetrators of a Marin County courtroom shooting.
Meanwhile, don’t let yourself be embarrassed: take the opportunity to pre-emptively polish your not-so-trivial Angela Davis trivia with this semi-official (read: completely unofficial) but remarkably fun and informative fact sheet.
Who knows? The filmmakers might have missed some stuff.
Fact #1: Remember when those guys bombed that black church in Birmingham, Ala., back in ‘63? Four little girls were killed, and Davis knew several of them personally (they grew up in the same area).
Fact #2: The bright folks at the University of California Board of Regents fired Davis from her UCLA teaching position for being a member of the Communist Party. And despite then-Governor Ronald Reagan’s claim that she “would never again teach in the University of California system,” she is now Distinguished Professor Emeritus at UC Santa Cruz.
Fact #3: John Lennon and Yoko Ono recorded a song about her, called “Angela,” on their 1972 album Some Time in New York City.
Fact #4: Davis ran for vice president in 1980 and 1984 on the Communist Party ticket.
Fact #5: Jonathan Jackson, 17-year-old brother of murdered civil rights activist George Jackson, gained access to a Marin County courtroom on August 7, 1970. He promptly armed the trial defendants and took Judge Harold Haley and four others hostage. A shootout with the police ensued, during which the judge, a hostage, Jackson, and the defendants were all killed, and Angela Davis (who was not present) was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder. After a lengthy trial and prison term, she was acquitted and released.
Fact #6: Davis was only the third woman to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List.
Photo Credit: WordPress
Fact #7: She was named a 1979 Lenin Peace Prize recipient, and traveled to the Soviet Union that year to collect her award.
Fact #8: Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University, and later became the first student of Herbert Marcuse, famed German philosopher and activist.
Fact #9: Her brother, Ben Davis, played defensive back for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions professional football teams.
Fact #10: President Richard Nixon once called Angela Davis "dangerous terrorist,” congratulating the FBI on her capture.
NOTE: This list is far from exhaustive, and admittedly random in scope. For more info, read a goddamn book! (I’d start with this one).