Angela Davis: A Feminist Postcolonial Revolutionary


Angela Davis is undoubtably one of the top five most important Black Woman in American History.


She represents a tradition of Black Woman writers that fearlessly enrich the tradition of black thought. Davis was brought to trial in 1972 in San Jose, California, on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy [1].


Davis, who was an African American Communist, faced the death penalty at the time of her arrest. This illustrates to us how vile and racist American society was at that time — since then president Richard Nixon congratulated the FBI on its "capture of the dangerous terrorist Angela Davis," a sentiment echoed by Ronald Reagan, who was the governor of California back then.


The black community at that time were unapologetic about their love and support for Davis and her cause. Her arrest came only a year and a half after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and in the wake of uprisings that have seen hundreds of African American people wounded and killed.


At the time of her arrest, Davis was a member of the Chelumumba Club of the U.S communist party in Los Angeles. This was an all-Black collective named in memory of Che Guevara, a hero of the Cuban Revolution, and Patrice Lumumba, the leader of the Congolese National Liberation Movement. Davis was also associated with the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panther Party (BPP).


Davis on the Prison Industrial Complex

Davis is a prolific speaker and internationally renowned activist. She is also a prolific author who has written several books, which include: Women, Race and Class and Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, just to name a few [2].


For almost thirty years, Davis has been working day and night to radically reform the US penal system. She has been teaching, organizing and speaking about the evils of the U.S prison industrial complex.


Davis holds a rebellious spirit against institutional racism that has yet to diminish — as she has seen the same institutions of systemic racism in the U.S remain largely omnipresent over decades. For instance, as of 1999, two million people were locked up in the immense network of US prisons and jails, and 70% were people of color, mostly Black and Latino.


From this perspective, Davis rightfully notes that mass surveillance is a systematic disadvantage for people of color, as it impedes them from participating in the social contract, which is a privilege that White Americans are more likely to enjoy.

Davis also emphasizes that the fastest growing group of prisoners in the United States are Black woman.
Davis often eloquently quotes Elliot Currie, who presciently states: "the prison has become a looming presence in our society to an extent unparalleled in our history — or that of any other industrial democracy.
Short of major wars, mass incarceration has been the most thorougly implemented government social program our time".

David eloquently and rightfully claims that the prison industrial complex produces social destruction for communities of color, especially for black men and woman. Davis is challenging the ubiquitous rhetoric of prisons as a necessary solution to crime — and instead proposes that imprisonment has become the response of first resort too far too many of the social problems that burden people ensconced in poverty.


Davis postulates that these problems are often veiled by being conveniently grouped together under the category of crime, which is often attributed to Black and Latino people of color.


By deconstructing the stereotypes that often come along with the phenomena of crime, Davis emphasizes that homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.


Crime is often a symptom of other problems in society, meaning that crime would decrease substantially if we addressed issues like: systemic racism, economic grievances and mental health issues in our society, to name a few.


Racism, Feminism and Woman's Rights

Davis sees Birth Control — individual choice, safe contraceptive methods, as well as abortions when necessary — as a fundamental prerequisite for the emancipation of woman [3]. Davis reminds us that black woman have been aborting themselves since the earliest days of slavery.


Many slave woman refused to bring children into a world of interminable forced labor, where chains and floggings and sexual abuse for women were the everyday conditions of life.


Davis notes that a woman's desire to control their reproductive system is probably as old as human history itself. As early as 1844, the United States Practical Receipt book contained, among its many recipes for food, household chemicals and medicine receipts for birth preventive lotions.


Davis also postulates that woman of color are more likely to have their individuality and rights stifled by the state. For instance, Native Americans are special targets of government propaganda on sterilization


According to Davis, the domestic population policy of the US government has an undeniably racist edge — as Native Americans, Chicana, Puerto Rico and Black Woman continue to be sterilized in disproportionate numbers.


Davis cites a National Fertility study conducted in 1970 by the Princeton University Office of population control, which states that 20% of all married Black women had been permanently sterilized — and 43% of the woman sterilized through federally subsidized programs were Black.


Conclusion

Davis is not only the iconic face of black pride — she is a major feminist scholar who has written some of the most transformative and enduring texts of feminist thinking in the last quarter century [4].


In 1997, Professor Davis helped found Critical Resistance, which is a national organization dedicated to dismantling the prison-industrial-complex, a topic that is central to her current scholarship and activism.


Davis has been an unwavering revolutionary and prison activist who's focus has returned repeatedly to the opposition of prisons, imprisonment, radicalized punishment — while also empowering woman.


Sources

[1] Aptheker, Bettina. The morning breaks: The trial of Angela Davis. Cornell University Press, 2014.


[2] Gordon, Avery F. "Globalism and the prison industrial complex: an interview with Angela Davis."Race & Class 40, no. 2-3 (1999): 145-157.


[3] Lewis, Reina, and Sara Mills, eds. Feminist postcolonial theory: A reader. Routledge, 2003.


[4] Davis, Angela Y. Abolition democracy: Beyond empire, prisons, and torture. Seven Stories Press, 2011.