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Well known 1960s activist to speak Oct. 16 (Released: 10/6/97)

by Luis Mocete, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. - Angela Davis, one of the most visible and vocal radicals of the 1960s and 1970s, will lecture at the University of Connecticut on Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in von der Mehden Recital Hall. Her talk, free and open to the public, will be about African-Americans and the prison industry. The lecture will be followed by a reception at the Pit in the Fine Arts Building.

Davis, now a professor in the history of consciousness department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, came into the national spotlight after being removed from her teaching position in the philosophy department at the University of California at Los Angeles.

She was dismissed in 1969 by the University of California Board of Regents because of her work on behalf of a group of black prison inmates known as the Soledad Brothers and because she was a member of the Communist Party.

"Her career is consistent with that of many activist African-Americans of the 20th century," says Ronald Taylor, director of the Institute for African-American Studies. "Like Richard Wright and Paul Robeson, who were both members of the Communist Party, she felt it was a party committed to radical change. They felt the capitalist system is inherently exploitative of the labor of the masses for the benefit of a few."

Ronald Reagan, when he was governor of California, vowed that Davis would never again teach in the University of California system.

In 1970, guns belonging to Davis were used in a shootout in the Marin County Courthouse that killed four people. The dead included a judge, two San Quentin convicts, and the young man who had smuggled the guns into the courtroom. Davis was charged with kidnapping and murder.

She went underground and was put on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list. An extensive police search led to her capture two months later.

When she was jailed on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, her case created a massive international "Free Angela Davis" campaign.

After spending 18 months in jail, she was tried and acquitted of all charges.

Davis then resumed her teaching career at San Francisco State University. Controversy surrounded her again when, in 1994, she was appointed to a presidential chair at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Some Republican lawmakers didn't think Davis deserved this prestigious professional award, which would let her develop new ethnic study courses, among other things.

During the last 25 years, Davis has lectured in all 50 states, as well as in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, and the former Soviet Union.

"She is one of the most eloquent spokespersons today with respect to political matters," Taylor says. "She has an ability to identify the factors in this country that contribute to social problems of one kind or another, whether we are talking about the number of people that end up in prison, or the conditions that perpetuate racial and gender inequality in this country."

Her longstanding commitment to prisoners’ rights dates back to her involvement in the campaign to free the Soledad Brothers. She is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the Prison Activist Resource Center, and is working on a comparative study of women’s imprisonment in the U.S., the Netherlands and Cuba.