Angela Davis

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Angela Davis (2010)

Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944 in Birmingham , Alabama ) is an American civil rights activist , philosopher , human scientist and writer . In the 1970s she became a symbol of the movement for the rights of political prisoners in the USA. Between the 1960s and 1980s she was one of the prominent leaders of the United States Communist Party .


Youth and Studies

Angela Davis comes from a black middle class family. Because of her talent, she received a scholarship from the American Friends Service Committee at the age of 15 for Elisabeth Irwin High School (also known as Little Red School House ), a private school in New York . Here she came into contact with Marxism for the first time and joined the communist circle at her school.

From 1961 she studied at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts , French literature and also from 1962 a year in France at the Sorbonne .

Her parents' neighborhood in Birmingham was the target of numerous bomb attacks against black civil rights activists ("Dynamite Hill") from the 1960s. In 1963, four girls whom Davis knew died in an arson attack by the Ku Klux Klan on the Baptist Church - the so-called 16th Street Baptist Church bombing - in Birmingham.

At Brandeis University Davis attended lectures by Herbert Marcuse , graduated magna cum laude in 1965 , and was accepted into the Phi Beta Kappa fraternity. At Marcuse's mediation, she studied philosophy and sociology in Frankfurt (Main) from September 1965, with Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer , among others . In Frankfurt she joined the SDS and took part in protests against the Vietnam War. Davis followed Marcuse to the University of California, San Diego, and completed her Masters in 1968.

Teaching and political activities

Against the background of the escalating struggles of the black civil rights movement, she joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) after her return from Frankfurt in the summer of 1967 and became a member of the Black Panther Party for a short time . In June 1968, Angela Davis became a member of the Che Lumumba Club, a group of African-American members of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). She left the SNCC because her membership in the Communist Party became a problem there.

From 1969 she was a lecturer at the University of California, Los Angeles , but her contract was terminated in 1970 when her membership in the CPUSA became known.

From 1975 to 1977 Davis taught African American studies at Claremont College and later women's and ethnic studies at San Francisco State University .

In 1980 and 1984, Davis ran for the office of US Vice President with Communist presidential candidate Gus Hall . Both got 0.05 and 0.04% of the vote.

In 1991 Angela Davis founded the Committee of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism together with other leftists (including Pete Seeger ) and former CPUSA members . However, she still describes herself as a communist.

Davis translated the book published in German in 1983 bright spots of Wolfgang Schivelbusch for the American edition Disenchanted Night .

Davis is Professor Emeritus at the University of California at Santa Cruz in the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies departments .

In her home town of Oakland (California), Davis has been supporting the Occupy movement since autumn 2011 , for example with a speech on the occasion of the general strike on November 2, 2011. On the occasion of her stay in Berlin to receive the Blue Planet Award on November 18, 2011, she visited the camp of the Occupy movement on the federal press beach . She is also the spokesperson for the campaign against the death penalty .

In December 2013 Davis took up the first Angela Davis visiting professorship for international gender and diversity studies at the Cornelia Goethe Center at the University of Frankfurt am Main .

Her work over the past few years has focused on the investigation of the “prison-industrial complex”, particularly in the US, which seeks to establish links between oppression based on gender, race and class.

Davis supports the anti-Israel BDS movement. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, Alabama canceled a human rights award for her for her support for BDS.

"Aiding Terrorism" charges and acquittal

On September 11, 1972,
Erich Honecker presented Davis with the invitation to the 1973 World Festival of Youth and Students in East Berlin

George Jackson , who had been imprisoned since the age of 18 and became a member of the Black Panther Party in prison, suggested Davis write a book about his prison conditions, which he did with Soledad Brother . In August 1970, Jackson's brother, Jonathan, engaged in a failed attempt to rescue himself in a courtroom in a shooting with the police, in which four people were killed. Davis was charged with procuring the gun for the robbery as it was bought in her name.

The FBI then put Angela Davis on the list of the top ten most wanted criminals in the United States . She was arrested a few weeks later. She faced the death penalty on charges of "supporting terrorism" . A wave of public protest spread beyond the borders of the United States against her arrest. Thousands of people from the GDR sent her postcards with roses to prison under the motto “A million roses for Angela Davis”. When she was provisionally released from prison in San Jose on February 24, 1972 after she had left bail, she spoke to the East Berlin special rapporteur Horst Schäfer , who personally congratulated her on behalf of many people from the GDR. After two years of trial, Davis was acquitted on all charges on June 4, 1972. On the occasion of the decisive court session in the Federal Republic of Germany in Frankfurt am Main, the congress "Using the example of Angela Davis" took place.

Review by Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The Russian dissident and Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn criticized Davis' sympathy for the Soviet Union and accused her of blindness to the mistreatment of political prisoners in the Eastern bloc, including in his speech to the AFL-CIO (the US trade union federation) on July 9, 1975 in New York . According to him, a group of Czech dissidents appealed to them. Davis refused to stand up for them. Davis replied, “They deserve what they get. Let them stay in jail. ”Angela Davis denied this allegation.


Angela Davis is an openly lesbian. She mentioned her homosexuality in an interview with Out magazine in 1997 .


  • In 1971 "The Prophet of Soul Larry Saunders" dedicated a 7 "maxi single to the imprisoned Angela Davis, on the A and B sides of the almost seven-minute track" Free Angela "(Label: Golden Triangle Records, right -released 2003).
  • In 1971 the solidarity single Rettet Angela Davis (music: Peter Gutzeit / text: Willy Sterna) by the folk group Die Liedermacher was released by the record label plan .
  • In 1972 Angela Davis was the only woman to receive honorary citizenship of the city of Magdeburg during her first visit to the GDR .
  • 1972 dedicated her John Lennon ( Angela on the album Some Time in New York City ) and the Rolling Stones ( Sweet Black Angel on the album Exile On Main Street ) songs.
  • In 1972 Franz Josef Degenhardt wrote the song Angela Davis , which can be found on the album Mutter Mathilde .
  • In 1972 the song Oh Angela , which praises Davis' work, appeared on the album Das Gewitter by Uve Schikora .
  • In 1979 she was awarded the Soviet Lenin Peace Prize.
  • In 2004 she received the Society's "Human Rights Prize" for the protection of civil rights and human dignity .
  • In 2006 she received the Thomas Merton Award for Peace and Social Justice.
  • In 2011 she received the Blue Planet Award from the ethecon foundation for “outstanding commitment to saving and preserving our blue planet”.
  • In 2012 she received an honorary doctorate from the Free University of Brussels .
  • In 2020/2021 the Dresden Kunsthalle in the Lipsiusbau is dedicating a special exhibition to Angela Davis, 1 million roses


  • If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance. 1971
  • Frame Up: The Opening Defense Statement Made. 1972
  • Angela Davis. To Autobiography. 1974
  • Women, Race & Class. 1981
    • Racism and sexism. Black women and class struggle in the US. Translated by Erika Stöppler. Elefanten Press, Berlin 1982, ISBN 3-88520-093-7 .
  • Violence Against Women and the Ongoing Challenge to Racism. 1985
  • Women, Culture and Politics. 1989
  • Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. 1999
  • The Angela Y. Davis Reader. 1999
  • Are Prisons Obsolete? 2003
  • Abolition Democracy - Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture. 2005
  • Freedom is a constant struggle . Unrast Verlag , Münster 2016, ISBN 978-3-89771-222-5


  • Angela Davis Solidarity Committee: Using Angela Davis as an example. The congress in Frankfurt. Speeches, presentations, minutes of discussions. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1972, ISBN 3-436-01603-9 .
  • Johanna Meyer-Lenz and Nina Mackert: Angela Davis: On the construction of an Afro-American political identity in the context of the 1968 movement. In: Burghardt Schmidt (Hrsg.): Human rights and human images from antiquity to the present. DOBU Verlag, Hamburg 2006, ISBN 3-934632-10-6 , pp. 255-276.
  • Regina Nadelson : Who is Angela Davis? The biography of a revolutionary. Yaden, New York 1972.
  • Marc Olden : Angela Davis. An Objective Assessment , 1973.
  • Walter Kaufmann : On the way to Angela Davis. Foreword by Victor Grossman. Atlantik, Bremen 2005, ISBN 3-926529-96-2 .
  • Klaus Steiniger : Angela Davis: A woman writes history. New Life Publishing House, February 2010, ISBN 978-3-355-01767-1 .
  • Bitsch and Baer: Angela Davis. Book and DVD in the library of resistance series, LAIKA-Verlag. Hamburg March 2010, ISBN 978-3-942281-71-3 .
  • Sophie Lorenz: "Hero of the other America". The GDR solidarity movement for Angela Davis, 1970–1973 . In: Zeithistorische Forschungen / Studies in Contemporary History 10 (2013), pp. 38–60.
  • Sophie Lorenz: "Black Sister Angela" - The GDR and Angela Davis. Cold War, Racism and Black Power 1965–1975 . transcript, Bielefeld 2020, ISBN 978-3-8376-5031-0 .


  • Angela Davis, the fight continues. (OT: Angela Davis, le combat continue. ) Documentary, USA, France, 2010, 40:10 min., Script and director: Shola Lynch, production: De Films en Aiguille, REALside Productions, arte France, German first broadcast: 9. March 2014 at arte, table of contents by arte.
  • Angela Davis - A legend lives on. Documentary, Germany, 1998, 79 min.
  • Angela Davis - Portrait of a Revolutionary. Documentary, USA, 1972, 60 min., Written and directed by Yolande Du Luart, synopsis by NYT .

Web links

Commons : Angela Davis  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Angela Yvonne Davis: Waters . In: Angela Davis: An Autobiography . International Publishers, New York City March 1989, ISBN 0-7178-0667-7 .
  2. ; accessed on March 26, 2020
  3. ^ UC website, Santa Cruz , accessed January 26, 2014.
  4. Angela Davis Visiting Professorship for International Gender and Diversity Studies - Cornelia Goethe Centrum. Retrieved on November 21, 2018 (German).
  5. ↑ Program of events , at the University of Frankfurt
  6. See Angela Davis Speaks Out on Palestine, BDS & More After Civil Rights Award Is Revoked ,, Jan. 11, 2019
  7. ^ Goethe University Frankfurt: Angela Davis teaches at Goethe University . In: Frankfurter Rundschau of December 4, 2013.
  8. Now more than ever in solidarity with Angela. In: Neues Deutschland (ND) from February 25, 1972; Message (ADN, ND) of Angela Davis' release from prison.
  9. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: Warning to the West. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York 1976, ISBN 0-374-51334-1 , pp. 60-61.
  10. Angela Davis, Q&A after a speech: Engaging Diversity on Campus: The Curriculum and the Faculty. East Stroudsburg University, Pennsylvania, October 15, 2006.
  11. ^ Katherine E. Horsley: Angela Davis ( English, also available in German ) FemBio. January 24, 2014. Accessed July 9, 2015.
  12. Information from a Marxist . In: RotFuchs , September 2012, p. 7. (PDF, 1.2 MB)
  13. ^ 1 Million Roses exhibition for Angela Davis