Angela Davis: Biography & Education

Instructor: Holly DeLuca

Holly has taught special education students and has a master's degree in special education

Angela Davis is an educator, activist and author known for her work to eradicate oppression in the United States as well as worldwide. Learn a bit about the life, work, and education of Angela Davis.

Who is Angela Davis?

Segregation, communism, Black Panther Party...these are just a few of the words that can be associated with Angela Davis. However, we can also say teacher, activist, author, and organizer. Davis is an extraordinary person who has worked for many causes that support African Americans, women, and different cultures worldwide. In this lesson we will look at the life and activities of Angela Davis.

Angela Davis

Discrimination From The Early Years

Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1944. From an early age, Davis experienced discrimination. When her family moved from the projects of Birmingham to a nearby neighborhood, white neighbors became angry that her family had moved in. In fact, these neighbors even took to bombing the homes of African Americans in an effort to force them out. Because of this, the neighborhood became known as Dynamite Hill.


Growing up, Angela attended black-only schools. She and her family were forced to ride in the back of buses, and were only able to enter the back door of different establishments in the community. This made her angry early on. Angela entered high school just as the civil rights movement was beginning. She left Birmingham at the age of 15 and traveled to New York City. There, she attended high school and began to learn about the Communist Party. After high school, Angela attended Brandeis University on a full scholarship, where she was one of only three African American first-year students. As a college student, Davis continued to pursue her interest in communist activities and to learn about different cultures. She came to realize that there were many barriers that needed to be overcome with regard to language and diversity.

During her junior year, Davis studied French literature at the Sorbonne in Paris. Upon returning to the states she was able to fulfill her interest in philosophy, studying with the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. She later received a scholarship to study philosophy in Frankfurt, Germany, where she delved into the philosophies of Karl Marx, Georg Hegel and Immanuel Kant.

An Outspoken Activist

During college, Angela became interested in the Black Panther Party. She learned that this party had been formed in order to protect the African American community from experiencing brutality from the police. Angela was very interested in this movement and wanted to participate. Her work with the Black Panther party brought her further discrimination from males involved in the movement. They considered the work Angela was doing to be 'men's work'. Davis would encounter this type of discrimination in many of her future roles as well.

In 1969, Davis was hired as an assistant professor at the University of California Los Angeles. By this time, she had become a member of the Communist Party and participated in activities with them, including a trip to Cuba. Davis worked with the Cuban people and realized that there was very little discrimination there under the Socialist system. For her participation in this trip, she received much criticism and hate mail when returning to the United States and was also not rehired as a professor the next year.

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