By Linda Weiford, WSU News
The noted scholar and social justice activist who was a public face of the ‘70s black power movement will speak this Thursday evening at Washington State University. Her talk, free and open to the public, is the keynote address of WSU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Celebration. (Doors open at 7 p.m. in the CUB Senior Ballroom. See: http://mlk.wsu.edu/ )
Davis, now 70, was only in her mid-20s when she was catapulted into the national spotlight during one of the more tumultuous periods in U.S. history. In 1969, the University of California Board of Regents fired her as an assistant philosophy professor at UCLA because of her membership in the Communist Party.
The dismissal sparked large-scale student protests in support of Davis’s right to teach and academic freedom. Then, roughly a year later, she became a nationally hunted fugitive after the FBI linked her to the shooting deaths of four people in a Marin County courthouse. Captured and tried, she was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury.
“Angela Davis: Black Revolutionary,” blared the October 1970 cover of Newsweek magazine.
“I wasn’t seeking fame. I wasn’t seeking notoriety. I just wanted to be a teacher and activist,” said Davis in a recent interview with UCLA News.
Still on front lines
Being a teacher and activist is just what her long career has encompassed. Davis is a distinguished professor emerita at UC, Santa Cruz where she taught for 15 years. She is also the author of nine books related to race, gender and imprisonment. What’s more, her revolutionary spirit remains strong. All these years later, she continues to fight for the rights of oppressed or underrepresented populations.
“A lot of civil and human rights activists of the 60s and 70s are no longer with the movement but that’s not the case with Angela Davis. She’s still on the front lines,” said David Leonard, chair of WSU’s Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies.
From those front lines, she’s pushing to dismantle the nation’s current prison system. Davis travels the country speaking against the flaws of mass incarceration of prisoners–a view that’s drawn, in part, from her own experience of spending 16 months in prison awaiting trial for murders she didn’t commit. And it is also shaped by explorations, both personal and scientific, revealing that people of color are unfairly and disproportionality incarcerated, according to her latest book, “The Meaning of Freedom and other Difficult Dialogues.” (City Light Publishers, 2012)
For many, Davis’s name conjures images of street protests and raised fists. But “there’s so much more to who she really is,” said Marc Robinson, Thursday’s event organizer and director of WSU’s Culture and Heritage Houses. “There’s Angela Davis as the icon and Angela Davis as a person. When she speaks at WSU, my guess is, the audience will see and hear both.”
For information about all of WSU’s MLK Community Celebration events and sponsors, go to http://mlk.wsu.edu/events/.
Marc Robinson, Instructor and Director, Culture and Heritage Houses, 509-339-6172, firstname.lastname@example.org
Linda Weiford: WSU News, 509-335-7209, email@example.com