Iconic revolutionary’s life
and struggles chronicled in
‘Angela Davis: Seize the Time’
Even as she appeared on the FBI’s ten most wanted list, this iconic Afrocentric revolutionary figure was loved by people across the United States and internationally.
Angela Yvonne Davis, with her bright skin and big and bold afro-styled hair, is being featured at the Oakland Museum in an exhibit titled: Angela Davis: Seize The Time.
“When you walk in the gallery you see two large pictures of her in a UCLA lecture hall filled to capacity,” said the Ella Baker Center’s Isabella Bergeson, in a telephone interview. “I have gone to see the exhibit twice already.”
Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944. By 1968, she had a doctorate degree in philosophy.
The first section of the exhibit introduces Davis to visitors as a progressive educator and one of the key figures of the Black liberation struggle. It showcases her affiliation with the Communist party, her termination from UCLA and the political activism that led to her arrest.
The most pivotal moment in Davis’s life came in 1970, when firearms said to be registered in her name were used in a brazen escape attempt at the Marin County Courthouse. This historic moment is also on display at the Oakland Museum.
Jonathan Jackson, brother of imprisoned revolutionary figure George Jackson, entered a courtroom where James McClain was on trial. He handed McClain and two other prisoners a gun. They took five hostages, including the judge. Jonathan Jackson, McClain and the judge were killed in a shootout with guards as they tried to escape the courthouse.
George Jackson was killed a year later by guards in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center.
Davis was the co-chair of a defense committee put together to defend Jackson and two others referred to as the Soledad Brothers. They were a group of Black men on trial for murder of a Soledad prison guard. Because of Davis’s connection to these men, she was accused of kidnapping and murder, a capital offense at the time, which could have landed her in the gas chamber.
The next exhibit section features the time in Davis’s life when she was on the run, in hiding, and on the FBI’s most wanted list. The museum displays a wanted poster for Davis that reads “Sister: You Are Welcome Here” on the opposite side, showing the two realities that Davis faced at the time.
After months on the run she was finally taken into custody and held without bail.
While Davis was facing trial, the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty. No longer facing that penalty, she was granted bail. A sketch from the courtroom is displayed in the museum gallery, showing Davis and her mother rejoicing at her not guilty verdict.
The next section focuses on the community activists who led the “Free Angela” campaign; buttons, stickers, photographs, postcards, letters, and artwork from members of the Black Arts Movement are prominently featured.
In the final section, Davis’s work against mass incarceration is featured. Artwork from contemporary artists is also showcased, showing a link between the institution of slavery and the prison industrial complex, which is a motif of Davis’s work as a prison abolitionist.
Davis is the co-founder of Critical Resistance, along with Ruth Gilmore Wilson, Rose Braz and others. It’s an organization that seeks to dismantle the prison industrial complex.
Davis has authored 10 books including: If They Come In The Morning: Voices of Resistance; Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974) edited by Toni Morrison; Are Prisons Obsolete (2003); Women, Race, and Class (1981); and Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement (2016).
At 78-years old Davis remains committed to the freedom of Black people and those who suffer from injustices based on race, sexual orientation, gender, and class.
Davis’s exhibit will be on display at the Oakland museum until June of 2023.