It seems incredible to me that Angela Davis is to be honored as an inductee in the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Incredible not because it isn’t deserved, but because wasn’t it just yesterday—?
In the late 1960s and early 70s, to say the name Angela Davis meant to picture a beautiful Black woman in a full afro with right arm extended and a closed fist giving the power salute of Black Panthers. She was the powerful voice and vision for activists of feminism and equality during the Civil Rights movement.
If you look up Davis on Google or any other search engine, you will find her described as a former Communist, Activist, and Black Panther supporter. Communist at least until the 1990s when she officially left the Party. In 1970 she purchased guns and supplied them to her own personal security guards. The guards then—as members of the Black Panthers—used those guns in an armed take-over of a courtroom in California. Four people were killed during the takeover and kidnapping, including a judge. The deaths occurred during a chase by government agents.
As a result of the deaths, Angela became a fugitive wanted by the FBI. At that time J. Edgar Hoover listed Davis on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List; she was the third woman and the 309th person to be listed.
She was eventually captured, imprisoned, tried, then found Not Guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. The question of course became one of prior knowledge and intent, to say nothing of the originating point of the bullets that caused the deaths.
Although she was found not guilty at the trial she was dogged by accusations and negative press for years. California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1969 attempted to have her barred from teaching at any California university, given that she was an avowed Communist. He was not successful then or later when Angela went on to become a professor and scholar at UCLA, California. She was and is a continuing voice for feminism and civil rights, and an author of serious merit.
Others to be inducted to the Hall of Fame include attorney and activist Gloria Allred, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Native American lawyer and professor Sarah Deer, actress and activist Jane Fonda, United States Air Force officer Nicole Malachowski, former member of U.S. Congress Louise Slaughter, composer Laurie Spiegel, biologist Flossie Wong-Staal, and artist/activist Rose O’Neill.
I list the others not just for honors earned, but to note the inclusion of Jane Fonda. Why? She too was accused of treason by an enraged public during the Vietnam war.
A picture of Jane Fonda on a Ho Chi Minh tank. A photo of Angela Davis with the Black Panthers in a power salute and in defense of the Soledad Brothers. Both led and inspired protests for and against themselves. The country was divided and loud then, just as now. Both were accused of treason.
Davis went from an incarceration of over a year—initially in solitary confinement—before she was granted bail. She was America’s Most Wanted criminal. Now she’s a professor emeritus and a Hall of Fame honoree.
It was Cardinal Richelieu who is credited with the saying: Treason is just a matter of dates. Indeed.