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Angela Davis: Lady Panther

April 20, 2011 in 1960s-1970s

The Black Panthers were formed in the mid-sixties as a means of fighting what they felt to be an oppressive white government and to promote social equality under a socialistic government. Like Malcolm X, the Panthers were somewhat of a radical group that did not necessarily belong to the same non-violent classification of civil rights activists like those led by Dr. King. They were militaristic in nature; wearing black berets and other military type uniform pieces and almost always sporting a symbolic afro haircut. In fact, at times, their methods of activism led to the attacks and murder of police and others. One of the women involved in the Panthers went on to become one of the FBI’s most wanted suspects in connection with one such attack.

Angela Davis was a black woman born in Birmingham, Alabama to Frank and Sallye Davis in 1944. Her parents were college educated, members of civil rights groups, and both spent time teaching primary and secondary education in Birmingham. Angela went to college in Massachusetts and abroad in such places as Germany, San Diego, and again in Germany to finish her doctorate in Philosophy. She was a radical feminist and was exposed to communism and other Marxist ideas while pursuing her education. Interestingly enough, she once was a part of SNCC, which is of course a non-violent organization. Her main focus came to be the conditions of people in prisons within the USA as such a topic is outlined within the 10 Point Program. Point 9 discusses the liberation of all black and oppressed people within American jails and how justice should actually be carried out. It was her passion for this subject which landed her a spot on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list in 1970.

George Jackson and WL Nolan were two men in Soledad Prison who began a chapter of the Panthers within the prison walls. While there, Nolan and two others were killed by a security guard which a jury found to be justifiable homicide. Soon after, a security guard in the same prison was found dead, and Jackson as well as two accomplices was charged in the murder. The motive according to the court was revenge for the killing of his friend Nolan. George’s brother Johnathan actually stormed a court room with a machine gun and demanded George’s release from prison but was gunned down while fleeing. Later, George Jackson was killed in an attempt to escape Soledad Prison while in possession of a 9mm pistol. The weapon used in the crime was traced back to Angela Davis who had purchased it days before. Popular speculation is that she smuggled it into the prison for his escape attempt, but that is not proven.

Angela was on the run for about two months before agents finally caught up with her. She spent around 18 months in jail while awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy and murder. In June 1972, she was found innocent by an all-white jury in a highly publicized trial. However, her teaching privileges in the state of California were revoked by Ronald Reagan himself due to her affiliation with the violent Panthers, the Communist party, and also due to her brush with the law. That really did not slow her down, though, as later in life she has gone on to teach at a collegiate level and was even inducted to Moscow University as an honorary professor while receiving the Lenin Peace Prize. In the 1980’s, Davis was a vice presidential candidate for the communist party though defeated. Lately, her main concern has remained to be the conditions of prisons, especially in regard to women in prison. She has written numerous books which mostly deal with women’s rights and her own experiences in the struggle for civil equality and the like. She also speaks around the country on similar issues.








by dawn

They Would Not Be Kept Down

October 22, 2010 in 1960s-1970s, Social history

Black woman were often more successful due to the promoted value of education in African American Community. According to Paula Giddings, blue collar male workers were paid more than females so sons were encouraged to drop out before daughters (329). 7.2% of Black females held profession jobs compared with 3.1% of Black males (Giddings, 329). A 9.6% of the African American physicians were black woman compared to only 7% of White female physicians (332). African American woman also felt more confident within their successful occupation when asked 74% felt if they suited their career were as only 49% of White females felt that they did a study done in 1964 (Giddings, 333).

During the civil rights movement Black organizations fighting for African American rights often were not interested in supporting female African Americans. Black men within such organizations such as the SNCC, Black Panther Party, CORE, and the SCLC seemed to only allow women within to gain so much power. According to Giddings, the men concerned about their masculinity tried to keep woman from speaking , having positions over men. They expected woman to do the grunt work and other non-leadership jobs such as taking notes, serving food and such.

Ella Baker a woman heavily involved in the SCLC, wrote: “There would never be any role for me in a leadership capacity with the SCLC. Why? First, I am a woman…. The combination of the basic attitude of Men, and especially ministers, as to what the role of women in their church setups is- that of taking orders, not providing leadership.”(Giddings, 312).
Angela Davis worked with the Los Angeles chapter of SNCC. In When and Where I Enter, Davis discussed how the men did less work than the women but then “women where involved in something important, they began to talk about women taking over the organization calling in a matriarchal coup d’etat.” (Giddings, 316).

This kind of treatment was common though out Black organizations. Within the Black Panther Party Kathleen Cleaver who was an officer encountered similar problems stating “if I suggested them, the suggestion might be rejected; if they were suggested by a man the suggestion would be implemented… the fact that the suggestion came from a woman gave it some lesser value.” (Giddings, 317).
Gloria Richardson participation in a rally was shouted down by member of CORE who called her a “Castrator” (Giddings, 317). Richardson’s experience expresses the fears of the men so bluntly. Men who were already oppressed by whites did not want to lose power and masculinity to their female counterparts.

Giddings, Paula. When and Where I Enter.  1983. William Morrow and Company, Inc.

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