Angela Davis was born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama. Her both parents were college graduates and worked as school teachers. Her brother, named Ben Davis, played for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions in the 60s and 70s. Young Angela chose to attend a small private school known as the 'Little Red School House' in Greenwich Village in New York City. There she got involved in studies of socialism and communism and befriended the children of the leaders of the Communist Party, including her lifelong friend, Bettina Aptheker...
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The roots of her passion for social reform extend to her early youth in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1940s and 50s, a troubled time for blacks in the southern United States. The oldest of four children, Davis was raised by her college-educated parents in a segregated neighborhood that suffered such frequent bombings by the Ku Klux Klan that it was nicknamed “Dynamite Hill.” (Condoleezza Rice and Alma Johnson, wife of Colin Powell, were from the same Birmingham neighborhood.)
Angela’s grandmother instilled in her a strong sense of her history as an African American, and she attended various civil-rights activities and demonstrations in Birmingham with her activist mother. When Davis tried to start an interracial study group in high school, it was harassed, then disbanded by the police.
Young Davis saw the potential of a more integrated society when she moved to New York City in 1956 to attend a progressive high school on scholarship. It was at this time that she first became acquainted with socialism and communism, joining a Marxist-Leninist group in New York. Attending Brandeis University on a scholarship as one of very few African Americans, she graduated magna cum laude in French literature in 1965. She had spent 1963-64 studying philosophy at the Sorbonne, where her ideas for radical political change progressed through her exposure to the experiences of students from African colonialist nations.
And back at Brandeis, she attended classes in her final year with Marxist political philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who considered her the best student he had ever had
Together with Herbert Marcuse she participated in a political rally during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that time she studied Karl Marx, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre, and spent summer in Paris and Helsinki, where she participated in the World Festival of Youth and Students. There Davis met with the Cuban students and became a supporter of Fidel Castro and Cuba. Then she continued her studies at the University of Frankfurt, Germany for 2 years, from where she graduated in 1965.
[On August 28, 1963 The March On Washington took place. According to a display in a Smithsonian Museum, the bombing of the Baptist Church in Birmingham two weeks later was KKK retaliation for that civil rights march.]
That bombing....that killed four girls whom Davis knew intensified her desire for political change [...and eventually] she returned to the United States to participate actively in the struggle for civil rights.
After earning a Masters Degree in Philosophy with Marcuse at the University of California at San Diego, she began teaching at the University of California at Los Angeles in 1969 as an assistant professor of philosophy. By 1970, Davis had achieved all but the dissertation in her doctoral study of philosophy. At this point her political activism propelled her dramatically into the public eye.
Davis returned to East Germany for her Ph. D. in philosophy from Humboldt University in East Berlin. Back in California she worked as a lecturer at UCLA during the 60s. At that time Davis was a radical feminist and a member of the Communist Party USA and was also associated with the Black Panther Party.
[Davis was associated with the BPP but either did not join the Black Panthers or was only there for a very short time due to misogynistic practices she observed there. However, she did become a member of the Che-Lumumba Club, an all black faction of the Communist Party in Los Angeles, California.]
She was fired from University of California in 1969 because of communist affiliations, in a controversial decision by the Board, and pushed by then Governor Ronald Reagan. She was later rehired to her job [--but was forced out later]In 1970, Angela Davis appeared on the FBI's Most Wanted List [because she was linked to those trying to break the Soledad Brothers out of police custody while one or both of them were in a California courtroom.]
- In the shoot-out, a judge and others were killed, and Davis was implicated by the guns. When she fled into hiding, the FBI placed her on the “Ten Most Wanted List.” Found in New York, she was held in prison for over a year, while a huge “Free Angela” movement began to grow internationally, protesting the abusive power of the criminal justice system.
- Davis was acquitted, after a year in prison, in 1972...