Once-famous civil rights activist comes to Forest Grove

Angela Yvonne Davis became famous in 1970 when four people died in a California courthouse shootout involving guns registered in her name.

Davis had been recently fired as a professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, due to her Communist Party membership and inflammatory language. Now she was suddenly a fugitive and on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.

Captured and imprisoned two months later, tens of thousands of people from around the world called for her release on bail. After spending 18 months in prison, Davis — an African American — was eventually found not guilty of all charges by an all-white jury.

Davis eventually returned to teaching at the University of California and in 1994 was given the distinguished honor of an appointment to its Presidential Chair in African American and Feminist Studies.

Now 70, Davis is a passionate voice for the abolition of prisons. Her drive for equality of all people began when she was a child, with a trajectory that has expanded but never wavered.

A professor emerita at the University of California, Davis was born in 1944 in Birmingham, Ala., and attended high school in New York City as part of a Quaker program to move students from segregated schools in the south to integrated schools in the north.

While studying in Paris in 1963, Davis learned the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham had been bombed and that one of the four girls killed was a family friend, Carole Robertson, and that another, Cynthia Wesley, lived behind her family’s home.

While French newspapers noted the violence against African Americans in the U.S., Algeria was fighting for independence from France.

This culmination deepened Davis’ passion for civil rights, which was sparked by her mother, also an activist.

With societal contradictions on both sides of the Atlantic, Davis developed a strong interest in philosophy and continued her academic pursuits in Paris while enrolled at Brandeis University.

She later earned a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of California and doctorate from Humboldt University in Berlin.

Davis went on to become a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison industrial complex, freeing up more resources for education. She continues to lecture throughout the world.

She is the author of nine books, including “Angela Davis: An Autobiography;” “Women, Race, and Class;” “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude ‘Ma’ Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday;” “Are Prisons Obsolete?;” and “The Meaning of Freedom.”

Davis will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, in Pacific University’s Stoller Center. Her business manager speculated she would “most likely be talking about the connection between slavery and the prison industrial complex.”

The event is sponsored by the Center for Peace & Spirituality, the Tom McCall Center for Policy Innovation, the Center for Civic Engagement, the Office of Diversity, the Office for Student Academic Inclusion and Success and Student Activity funds.

It is free and open to the public but tickets are required. A limited number of tickets are available online at

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