Living History: Freedom Fighter, Former Political Prisoner and Educator Angela Davis

Living History

Close your eyes and conjure up an image of Angela Davis. If you’re like me, that image most likely includes a powerful woman with a fist raised and a beautiful fro.  I knew her image and name long before I knew anything about her but once I learned, I was proud to call her an elder.  Here are 7 must-know facts about living legend and pioneer, Angela Davis.

1. Angela Davis was born and raised in “Dynamite Hill.”

Angela Yvonne Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944 in an area nicknamed “Dynamite Hill.” The area gained it’s nickname because the Ku Klux Klan would regularly bomb and set fire to homes and businesses inhabited by African Americans to deter integration.  Notably, Condoleezza Rice and Alma Johnson, wife of Colin Powell, were from the same community.

2. Davis knew two of the girls killed in the 16th Street Church Bombing.

Davis grew up two houses down from Cynthia Wesley and Carole Robertson, two of the little girls murdered in the 16th Street Church Bombing in 1963. The day of the bombing Davis’s mother drove Carole Robertson’s mother to the church to pick up her daughter not knowing she had been murdered. Davis was in college at the time.

Watch Davis talk about growing up in Birmingham and the 16th Street Church Bombing below:

3. She was only one of three black students when she enrolled at Brandeis University.

While attending Brandeis, she met German philosopher Herbert Marcuse who she credits with teaching her “it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar, and a revolutionary.” She graduated from Brandeis magna cum laude.

4. She was a member of the Communist Party.

Davis attended graduate school at the University of California, San Diego.  While attending, she joined the Black Panthers and also the Che-Lumumba Club, an all-black branch of the Communist Party named after Che Guevera and Patrice Lumumba.  Her affiliation with the Communist Party caused her to get fired from her job as an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.  In 1969, University of California’s policy barring Communists from employment was struck down in Los Angeles Superior Court and Davis was reinstated.

5. She spent 18 months in jail.

In January 1970, three African American prison inmates of Soledad Prison, John Wesley Cluchette, Fleeta Drumgo, and George Lester Jackson, were accused of killing a prison guard following the murder of several African American inmates by another guard. Davis organized protests, raised funds for the inmates’ defense, and publicly called for their release. Davis received death threats for supporting the inmates and reportedly purchased guns for her protection. During Jackson’s trial in August 1970, his younger brother attempted to free him by holding the courtroom at gun point and taking the judge, a district attorney and jurors hostage.  The judge, Harold Haley, was killed during the escape attempt.   The guns used by Jackson’s brother were registered to Davis.  Davis was brought up on several charges, including murder.  After spending roughly 18 months in jail, Davis was acquitted in June 1972. During her time in jail, many celebrities and members of the community came to her defense dubbing her a political prisoner.


6. Davis now works as a professor and lecturer.

During the last twenty-five years, Professor Davis has lectured nationally and internationally.  She is the author of nine books, including Angela Davis: An Autobiography; Women, Race, and Class; Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday; The Angela Y. Davis Reader; Are Prisons Obsolete?; a new edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass; and The Meaning of Freedom.

Following her termination from the University of California, San Diego, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan vowed that Angela Davis would never teach in the University of California system again. As of this writing, Professor Davis is Distinguished Professor Emerita in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies Departments at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1994, she was appointed as the University of California Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies.

7. Davis endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential Election.

On October 1, 2016, at the “Many Rivers to Cross Festival” in Atlanta, Georgia, Davis stated that although she is not enthusiastic about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, she will vote for Clinton to prevent Donald Trump from winning the presidential election.

Information Attained From:



About The Author

Faye McCray is anMcCray_AuthorPhoto (1) attorney by day and writer all the time. Her work has been featured on My Brown Baby, AfroPunk, AfroNews, For HarrietMadame NoireBlack Girl NerdsBlack and Married with Kids, and other popular publications.  Faye also has a number of short stories and a full length novel available for purchase on Amazon.  Most importantly, Faye is a proud wife and mother to three beautiful and talented young boys who she is fiercely passionate about raising. You can find Faye on Twitter @fayewrites and on the web at

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