Angela Yvonne Davis' fame sparked from her association with the Black Panther and Communist parties. Though she is an extremely well educated woman, you only hear about one part of her life. Davis is more than a Communist or Black Panther. She is a person who has lived a full and influential life. She had a childhood, was involved in a very powerful movement and is still doing positive things. Her accomplishments should be looked at in their entirety and without prejudice.
Angela Yvonne Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on 26th January, 1944. Her father, a graduate of St. Augustine's College, left teaching high school history due to the low salary. He then owned and operated a service station in the black section of Birmingham. Her mother, also college educated, was an elementary school teacher with a history of political activism. She is the eldest of four. Her brother, Ben Davis, played defensive back for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions in the late 1960's and early 1970's. The family lived in an area known as Dynamite Hill, given the name due to the large number of African American homes bombed by the Ku Klux Klan. Her mother was active in the Birmingham chapter of the NAACP and a civil rights campaigner. Davis knew about the harsh reality of racial segregation.
Davis was extremely smart and entered school at an early age. She attended Carrie A. Tuggle School, a Black elementary school and later Parker Annex, middle school. Davis read vigorously. At 14, she applied for and was accepted to a program of the American Friends Service Committee which placed Black students from the South in integrated schools in the north. She chose to attend high school at Elizabeth Irwin High School, also known as the Little Red School House, in Greenwich Village in New York City. This was a small private school favored by the radical community. There Davis was introduced to study of socialism and communism and recruited to the Communist youth group, Advance, where she became acquainted with her lifelong friend, Bettina Aptheker.
After graduation from high school, Davis was awarded a full scholarship to Brandeis University in Massachusetts, where she was one of three Black students in her freshman class. She soon made friends with the foreign students on campus. She worked at part-time jobs earning money to spend her summer in Europe and attend the eighth World Festival for Youth and Students in Finland. That summer she also spent time in Paris and Switzerland. She was strongly impressed by the energetic Cuban delegation. When she returned home, she had an FBI interview about her attendance at the Festival which the government considered communist sponsored. During her second year, she decided to major in French. Malcolm X appeared at the Brandeis campus that year and strongly castigated his mostly White audience. Davis was accepted for the Hamilton College Junior Year in France Program. Classes were initially at Biarritz and later at the Sorbonne. In Paris, she lived together with other students with a French family. It was at Biarritz that she received news of the September 1963 Birmingham church bombing, committed by the KKK, which deeply affected her since she babysat the four young victims. While at Brandeis, she was socially isolated; all the other students were White. Nearing completion of her degree in French language, she realized her major interest was philosophy. Davis then began making plans to attend the University of Frankfurt for graduate work in philosophy. At this time, she was very interested in Camus and Sartre and Herbert Marcuse served as a perfect mentor. In 1965 she graduated, magna cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. At the University, weak in German, she had great difficulty following the lectures of Adorno but soon found that her fellow students, native Germans, shared her difficulty. Many of her roommates were active in the German Socialist Student League, a radical student group. Davis...
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