A free lecture by activist/scholarAngela Davis brought a crowd of over 1,000 to Shryock Auditorium at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale on Thursday, February 13, 2014. Angela Yvonne Davis is remembered as a communist who was fired from UCLA in 1970, and for being on J. Edgar Hoover’s Ten Most Wanted List before being tried and acquitted in connection with the Soledad brothers’ murder trial. She continues her activism today as the founder of Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish what she calls the prison-industrial complex.
After the crowd stopped applauding and sat down, I felt as if I were in a college class, listening to an excellent professor. Angela Davis is retired from the University of California at Santa Cruz. It was a pleasure to hear her share her knowledge and elegant thinking process.
Professor Davis made the point, at the very beginning of her lecture, that although there are those who say we should stop talking about slavery, which is in the distant past, in fact we had slavery in the United States for longer than we have not had slavery. She also talked about the various forms of racism that have persisted, in particular in our prison system.
Angela Davis cited a number of books and authors during her talk, including:
Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (2008)
The writings of W.E.B. DuBois (1865-1963)
Milfred C. Fierce, Slavery Revisited: Blacks and the Southern Convict Lease System, 1865-1993 (1994)
David M. Oshinsky, Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (1997)
Matthew J. Mancini, One Dies, Get Another (1996)
Alex Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (1996)
Michelle Alexander , The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2011)
Robert Christensen, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire (2010)
Beth Ritchie, Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation (2012)
Davis wove references to these books and authors into her lecture in a natural way, suggesting the deep impression they have made on her own thinking. The audience applauded when she said that knowledge doesn’t always come from the Academy; it often comes from people who are doing things out in the world.
Author Angela Y. Davis’s own books include:
Women, Race, and Class (1983)
Women, Culture and Politics (1990)
Are Prisons Obsolete? (2003)
Abolition Democracy: Beyond Empire, Prisons and Torture (2005)
With Robin D. G. Kelley, The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues (2012)