Davis is known internationally for her ongoing work to combat all forms of oppression in the U.S. and abroad. Over the years she has been active as a student, teacher, writer, scholar, activist and organizer. She is a living witness to the historical struggles of the contemporary era.
In the 1960s, Davis joined the Communist Party, protested with the Black Panthers and become a principal spokesperson for the burgeoning prison reform movement. As a result, she found herself fighting to keep her job as a newly appointed philosophy professor at UCLA when her detractors characterized her as a dangerous subversive menace in the national media. Her supporters, however, viewed her as a strong leader challenging authority and boldly advocating for power to all people.
On August 7, 1970, Davis was implicated in the politically motivated kidnapping and murder of a judge in a brazen daylight shootout at the Marin County courthouse. Davis fled California, convinced she would not be given a fair trial, and was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List. After a national manhunt, she was captured two months later in New York City.
Charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, Davis was put on trial in one of the most sensational court cases of its time. After a two year legal battle, an all-white jury acquitted her on all charges in 1972. In the recently released documentary, “Free Angela and All Political Prisoners,” Davis speaks for the first time in 40 years about the actions that branded her a terrorist and simultaneously spurred a worldwide political movement for her freedom. This film will be shown on Feb. 5 in the Mountainlair’s Gluck Theater before and after her Festival talk, at 5 p.m. And 9 p.m.
Today, Davis works on a range of social problems associated with incarceration and the criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She is especially concerned with the general tendency to devote more resources and attention to the prison system than to educational institutions. Having helped to popularize the notion of the prison-industrial complex, her work urges audiences to think seriously about the future possibility of a world without prisons.
Davis sits on the executive board of the Women of Color Resource Center, a San Francisco Bay Area organization that emphasizes popular education of and about women who live in conditions of poverty. She also works with Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison-industrial complex. She is also affiliated with Sisters Inside, an abolitionist organization based in Queensland, Australia, that works in solidarity with women in prison.
Her teaching career has taken her to San Francisco State University, Mills College and UC Berkeley, as well as UCLA, Vassar, the Claremont Colleges and Stanford. Davis has spent the last 15 years at UC Santa Cruz, where she is now professor emerita of history of consciousness, an interdisciplinary doctoral program, and of feminist studies.
A book signing and reception with Davis will follow her talk. For more information, visit http://festivalofideas.wvu.edu and follow the conversation on Twitter at #wvuideas.
Festival of Ideas is an annual speaker series that hosts high-profile intellectuals and public figuresalong with WVU’s own academic superstarsin a series of lectures that engage the University community in important issues of the day. It’s organized by the Office of University Events.
CONTACT: Liz Dickinson, Office of University Events
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