Political activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis appeared at North Carolina Central University on Feb. 10, where she spoke about America’s longstanding struggle to ensure civil rights for all.
Davis was invited to campus as part of the university’s Rock the Mic speaker series sponsored by the Department of Student Engagement and Leadership in the Division of Student Affairs and spoke to an audience of students, faculty, staff and community members.
Davis, a well-known civil rights activist who later became an advocate for prison inmates and a college professor, said her dream is to one day live in a society that “no longer thrives on racism” and no longer disproportionately incarcerates people of color.
“What we are now experiencing is not new, even though people act like it just started to happen,” she said in reference to organizations such as Black Lives Matter and Dream Defenders that have been formed in recent years. “We are seeing a renewed dedication to what has been a long, black radical tradition.”
Citing the efforts of many civil rights leaders, and noting the 50th anniversary of the Black Panthers Party, Davis pointed out that more than 2 million people remain behind bars in the U.S., and one out of every 35 adults is subject to some type of court or police order.
She tied the struggle against excessive incarceration to the abolitionist movement in the slavery era, saying “the essence of black history is the struggle for freedom."
Black incarceration rates grew swiftly following the Civil War, she said. Today, the prison industry has largely become privatized and generates billions of dollars annually, making it difficult to reform or dismantle, Davis added.
Davis said she recently returned from a trip to Europe, where she met with members of the minority Basque community, recognizing that the struggle for human rights is an international issue.
Davis herself was incarcerated for 16 months in the early 1970s on accusations of assisting a deadly prison break. She was released after being found not guilty of charges.
Now a distinguished professor emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, Davis said she was honored to be at NCCU because it is the oldest liberal arts college founded for African-Americans. She said both her parents attended historically black colleges; her father was a graduate of St. Augustine’s University in Raleigh, N.C.
Davis earned her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University, where she studied under renowned philosopher Herbert Marcuse. She also received a master’s degree from the University of California at San Diego and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Humboldt University of Berlin.
Davis 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; and The Angela Y. Davis Reader.
Sheyann Webb Christburg, civil rights activist and author is the next scheduled speaker for the Rock The Mic Lecture Series and will visit NCCU on Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m.
For more information, please contact: Dr. Toya Corbett, executive director, NCCU Student Engagement and Leadership, at 919-530-5547, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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