Angela Davis – Address at UC Berkeley – introduced by Herbert Marcuse – 1969 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
In recent months, the events that are currently front and center in the social/racial makeup of America have brought about a dramatic reappraisal of just how prevalent the issue of racism has been in our society. Even more apparent, incidents of violence and brutality, made abundantly clear by social media.
So in this dramatic reappraisal, those voices, those figures who were active going back to the 1950s and further are being examined once again.
The 60s had no shortage of activism or influential voices taking part in the social upheaval then. But it’s interesting how many of those voices have been overlooked in recent years – those people who were very visible, very vocal, and who were actively involved in the sweeping changes taking place some 50 years ago.
Case in point – someone was asking me if I knew who Angela Davis was – they had heard the name, but weren’t familiar with the person or the issues – didn’t know if she was involved in the Black Power movement of the 60s and early 70s or the Women’s Movement.
Right now I’m going to blame our educational system. True, there are a lot more events and issues of the past than there ever were before – the nature of preservation and recording has made much in our history accessible. There’s a lot more information to sift through simply because there’s a lot more information that has survived for a longer period of time. But that doesn’t mean it should be ignored just because there’s too much of it – on the contrary; with all the issues set up, you can gain a better understanding of what happened because of witnesses and so many points of view.
The period Angela Davis probably best represents is that period of time when Movements were splintering and heading in different directions. The Black Power Movement came largely in reaction to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King and the rise of the Black Panthers. The increasing issues of poverty and urban decay brought about unrest which exploded into riots in the 60s. The Peace Movement, around the time of Kent and Jackson State was splintering into various militant movements; the SDS, Weathermen, Weather-underground and others.
All of these movements had leaders and voices attached to them – they all represented points of view going from valid to extreme radical. They were visible and they made up much of the turmoil which faced America in the late 60s and early 70s.
Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, philosopher, academic, and author. She is a professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Ideologically a Marxist, Davis was a member of the Communist Party USA until 1991, after which she joined the breakaway Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. She is the author of over ten books on class, feminism, and the U.S. prison system. Praised by many Marxists and others on the left, Davis has received various awards, including the Soviet Union’s Lenin Peace Prize. She has also sustained criticism for her support for political violence and her refusal to advocate for prisoners in Marxist-Leninist countries. Davis has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.Davis was Time magazine’s “Woman of the Year” for 1971 in its 2020 “100 Women of the Year” edition.
And now you get to hear her, as she spoke to a large gathering at UC Berkeley in 1969. She is introduced by her mentor and colleague Dr. Herbert Marcuse (another name that has faded with time, but we’ll get to that in the next few weeks).
Just remember, she made this address 51 years ago.
Yes – 51 years ago.