Growing up I remember the images of radical Communist UCLA professor Angela Davis with her big afro, gapped teeth and serious demeanor. What I didn’t remember was why the mere mention of her name caused such a stir.
Free Angela, produced by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, along with Grammy winning rapper Jay-Z is a documentary that chronicles the life of young college professor Angela Davis, and how her social activism implicates her in a botched kidnapping attempt that ends with a shootout, four dead, and her name on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list.
It also chronicles a time in American history when political unrest and racial injustice were at its height. Richard Nixon was in office, J. Edgar Hoover was running things over at the FBI and future POTUS Ronald Reagan were all using this case to make names for themselves. The ultimate state punishment was thrown at Davis, the most threatening of Black people, at a time when the state felt most threatened. This is within ten years of the murders of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, John F. and Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the end of the day, this case ultimately came down to the the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms…an issue that is still prevalent today.
I believe the biggest issues that Americans (mainly white americans) had with Angela Davis were simply obvious. Davis was educated at Brandeis University, spent a great deal of time in Europe (where she learned to speak fluent German), she was a popular professor of philosophy at a prestigious institution of higher learning and came from a very affluent middle-class upbringing. She was not from “the hood” speaking broken English and collecting welfare or unemployment from the state. She WAS, however, an extremely bright young woman who openly declared her membership to the Communist Party. Being a Communist was not a popular association for Americans…no matter what race (remember the McCarthy hearings in the 50’s?)
Not to mention the fact the during her trial, the prosecution insinuated that she be convicted for not only bearing the arms that resulted in lives lost, but that she did so based on her love for a political prisoner by the name of George Jackson. They claimed her judgement was so clouded that she would’ve done anything for them to be together. That in and of itself is extremely chavaunistic and preposterous. Did they really think that an Ivy League educated woman was so in love that her judgment was really that clouded?
Ms. Davis got on the stand in her own defense and basically expressed that exact same sentiment. What was at stake? Angela Davis, if convicted, faced four counts of murder carrying three life sentences along with it. Evidently, the all-white jury related with Angela and she was acquitted on all counts.
Where is Angela Davis today? Today, she is in high demand as a Guest Speaker around the world and spends most of her time dedicated to the support of other political prisoners.
Free Angela is an enlightening, inspiring and heart wrenching account of how one person can make a difference and how one person can change the course of history and life as we and THEY know it. You can catch this documentary on NETFLIX, HULU or YOUTUBE.