Angela Y. Davis is one of the best-known names from 1970s American radicalism. Born in 1944 in the heartland of segregated America, Birmingham, she began a lifetime of political engagement before even entering high school. Quickly rising to prominence in the Communist Party as well as the burgeoning racial and feminist politics of the time, she became known as an associate of the Black Panthers and countless others.

This notoriety exploded in 1970 after Johnathan Jackson, a black teenager, took a Marin County courtroom hostage, ending in his own death and that of several prisoners, cops and a judge. Davis, was sought for her involvement, having written the prisoners he was attempting to free and allegedly purchased the guns he used. First as a fugitive then one of the country’s best-known political prisoners, and even managed to become the third woman in history to make the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. After 18 months in jail, she was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury, but not before becoming something of an international sensation. With hundreds of support groups in 67 countries, as well as songs from both the Rolling Stones and John Lennon/Yoko Ono.

In the decades since, she’s been a teacher, two-time vice-presidential candidate (Communist) and the author of many books, including Angela Davis: an Autobiography, Abolition Democracy and The Meaning of Freedom.

Davis’ writing focuses on themes of race, class, gender and political freedom. Since her time in prison, though, her work has taken on incarceration as a main focus. As a co-founder of Critical Resistance and author of books such as Are Prisons Obsolete?, she describes herself as a prison “abolitionist” and draws parallels between the modern prison-industrial complex and old institutions of slavery. As she points out, this view might sound radical today, but during the 60s and 70s it was widely accepted, even among industry experts (then Reagan happened…). While it’s notoriously brutal, racist and ineffective, Davis argues our prison system is inextricably rooted in our “democratic” system, which tends to be defined by the loss of it’s freedoms, first through the “civil death” of slavery and now incarceration.

In a little over a week, Angela Davis will be visiting the Hammer! On Wednesday March 27th (doors @ 6pm) she’ll be lecturing at LIUNA Station, giving a speech entitled “150 Years Later, Abolition in the 21st Century”. The event is both free and wheelchair accessible.

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