Ms Davis left Birmingham to attend Elizabeth Irwine School in New York in 1959, having been awarded a scholarship from the American Friends Southern Negro Society. Two years later she enrolled at Brandeis University in Mississippi, where she studied French, spending a year in Paris in 1963 during which time she attended the prestigious Sorbonne school. Whilst studying Ms Davis travelled to Helsinki, Finland, to take part in the Eighth World Festival for Youth & Students; travelling to learn from other cultures and peoples, particularly with regard to activist and revolutionary politics, remains a feature of her career and life.
Upon her return to University Ms Davis switched majors to Philosophy under Marxist Philosopher Herbert Marcuse, who was to prove influential on her political views. After graduating in 1965 Ms Davis spent a year in what was then West Germany studying at the Institute for Social Research in Frankfurt.
In 1967 Ms Davis began doctoral studies at the University of California, San Diego, becoming involved with several civil rights activist groups and political movements, including the Black Panthers and the Che-Lemumba Club. The latter was an all-black branch of the Communist Party. Ms Davis was working for UCLA as an Assistant Professor in the philosophy department but when her political beliefs became known she was fired. Pressure from colleagues, students and the public forced the University to rehire her, but she was fired again in 1970 on the pretext of her support for the Soledad Brothers, who were accused of killing a prison guard.
On 13th October 1970 Ms Davis was arrested by the FBI having been on their Ten Most Wanted list for most of the year. She was accused of having supplied guns to those involved in the shooting attempt to free a member of the Soledad Brothers from Marin County Court, California. The charges cause public outrage and campaigns were enacted to free her. After sixteen months in jail Ms Davis trial came to court. She acted as her own co-counsel to an all-white jury she was finally acquitted of all charges on 4th June 1972.
Ms Davis’ experiences have led her to become an advocate for the abolition of the prison system. She is co-founder of Critical Resistance, which works towards this aim, and supports Sisters Inside, an Australian group working with female prisoners.
From 1975 to 1977 Ms Davis worked as a lecturer in African-American Studies at Claremont College, California, before being appointed lecturer in Women's & Ethnic studies at San Francisco State University. Ms Davis continued her travels, and in 1979 visited the Soviet Union where she was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize and made an honorary professor of Moscow State University.
In 1980 and 1984 Ms Davis was the Communist Party's vice-presidential candidate but in 1991 broke away from the party due to the latter body's support of the Soviet coup attempt of 1991 and the communist parties of the Warsaw Pact. She helped to found the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and remains a committee member to date.
In 1994, Ms Davis was appointed to the University of California Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies. In 1997 she came out as a lesbian in an interview with ‘Out’ magazine. Ms Davis is currently appointed Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Humanities Division, affiliated to the Feminist Studies Department, at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She continues to advocate for prison reform and for equality, participating in discussion panels, lecturing and talking throughout the United States at such events as the 2008 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference where she was closing keynote speaker and in the same year she spoke at The College of Charleston as a guest of the Women's and Gender Studies Program.
Ms Davis continues to be a mentor and role model for all young activists throughout the United States and is one of the most respected feminists in the world today.
If They Come in the Morning: Voices of Resistance (Third Press, 1971)
Angela Davis - An Autobiography (Random House, 1974)
Women, Race and Class (Random House, 1981)
Women, Culture and Politics (Vintage, 1990)
Are Prisons Obsolete? (Seven Stories Press, 2003)
Women, Race & Class – Angela Davis (1991 Cox & Whyman Ltd)
FOTW No 56 by Kayla Calkin, “This is What a Feminist Looks Like Facebook” group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/234694839904110/doc/527176270655964/
Blog by Tina Price-Johnson