Angela Davis, American political activist and Black feminist scholar, has spent her entire career advocating, writing, and teaching about racism, sexism, and class-based inequality. Her scholarship and advocacy has helped to lay the groundwork for many of our modern social justice movements, including the struggle against state violence within the U.S.
Born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944, Davis went on to study philosophy at Brandeis University and eventually earned her master’s from University of California, San Diego, followed by her doctorate in philosophy from Humboldt University. After working shortly as a professor, she was fired from UCLA in 1970 due to her close ties to the Black Panthers and Communist Party. That same year she was arrested in New York City. Davis served time as a political prisoner for sixteen months during the Nixon-era where levels of mass incarceration were beginning to rise within the United States.
Following her acquittal in 1972, she began to produce much of her work studying how integral anti-Blackness is to the prison-industrial complex and the American carceral system of policing. Her 2003 book, Are Prisons Obsolete?, questions the necessity of carceral punishment and outlines the historical connection between modern policing, imprisonment, and chattel slavery; ultimately she makes the case for the complete abolition of prisons as a whole.
Davis’s work, including her other texts such as Women, Race, and Class (1983), and Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons, and Torture (2005), have been incredibly foundational to contemporary movements for social justice and police reform. These movements, such as Black Lives Matter, Black feminism, as well as the fight for police abolition, each stand on the shoulders of thinkers such as Davis, whom’s struggle against sexism, anti-Blackness, and capitalism has spanned several decades.
To this day, Davis continues her commitment to education and political advocacy; currently she works as a professor at UC Santa Cruz. Her life’s work reminds of us of the importance of maintaining consistency and vehemence when challenging systems of oppression.
Cover Photo: History.com