Welcome to our collection of quotes by Angela Davis. We hope you enjoy pondering them and please share widely.

Wikipedia Summary for Angela Davis

Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, philosopher, academic, scholar, and author. She is a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A Marxist, Davis was a longtime member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA) and is a founding member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). She is the author of over ten books on class, feminism, race, and the US prison system.

Born to an African-American family in Birmingham, Alabama, Davis studied French at Brandeis University and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt in West Germany. Studying under the philosopher Herbert Marcuse, a prominent figure in the Frankfurt School, Davis became increasingly engaged in far-left politics. Returning to the United States, she studied at the University of California, San Diego, before moving to East Germany, where she completed a doctorate at the Humboldt University of Berlin. After returning to the United States, she joined the Communist Party and became involved in numerous causes, including the second-wave feminist movement and the campaign against the Vietnam War. In 1969, she was hired as an acting assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). UCLA's governing Board of Regents soon fired her due to her Communist Party membership; after a court ruled this illegal, the university fired her again, this time for her use of inflammatory language.

In 1970, guns belonging to Davis were used in an armed takeover of a courtroom in Marin County, California, in which four people were killed. Prosecuted for three capital felonies, including conspiracy to murder, she was held in jail for over a year before being acquitted of all charges in 1972. She visited Eastern Bloc countries in the 1970s and, during the 1980s, was twice the Communist Party's candidate for vice president; at the time, she also held the position of professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University. Much of her work focused on the abolition of prisons and in 1997, she co-founded Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison–industrial complex. In 1991, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union, she was part of a faction in the Communist Party that broke away to establish the CPUSA. Also in 1991, she joined the feminist studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she became department director before retiring in 2008. Since then she has continued to write and remained active in movements such as Occupy and the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Davis has received various awards, including the Soviet Union's Lenin Peace Prize. Accused of supporting political violence, she has sustained criticism from the highest levels of the US government. She has also been criticized for supporting the Soviet Union and its satellites. Davis has been inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. In 2020, she was listed as the 1971 "Woman of the Year" in Time magazine's "100 Women of the Year" edition, which covered the 100 years that began with women's suffrage in 1920. Davis is included in Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2020.

Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo. Obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.

--Angela Davis

Invisible, repetitive, exhausting, unproductive, uncreative these are the adjectives which most perfectly capture the nature of housework.

--Angela Davis

I never saw myself as an individual who had any particular leadership powers.

--Angela Davis

We live in a society of an imposed forgetfulness, a society that depends on public amnesia.

--Angela Davis

I became acquainted very early with the widespread presence of an unfortunate syndrome among some Black male activists -- namely to confuse their political activity with an assertion of their maleness. (pg. 159).

--Angela Davis

The process of empowerment cannot be simplistically defined in accordance with our own particular class interests. We must learn to lift as we climb.

--Angela Davis

Prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings.

--Angela Davis

Longer Version:

Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.


In this society, dominated as it is by the profit-seeking ventures of monopoly corporations, health has been callously transformed into a commodity -- a commodity that those with means are able to afford, but that is too often entirely beyond the reach of others.

--Angela Davis

I have a hard time accepting diversity as a synonym for justice. Diversity is a corporate strategy.

--Angela Davis

It is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals.

--Angela Davis

Because it would be too agonizing to cope with the possibility that anyone, including our­ selves, could become a prisoner, we tend to think of the prison as disconnected from our own lives. This is even true for some of us, women as well as men, who have already experienced imprisonment.

--Angela Davis

I think in black communities today we need to encourage a lot more cross racial organizing.

--Angela Davis

A fair trial would have been no trial at all.

--Angela Davis

Pregressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensity social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation.

--Angela Davis

We have accumulated a wealth of historical experience which confirms our belief that the scales of American justice are out of balance.

--Angela Davis

I think we have to really focus on the issues much more than we may have in the past. I think we have to seek to create coalitional strategies that go beyond racial lines. We need to bring black communities, Chicano communities, Puerto Rican communities, Asian American communities together.

--Angela Davis

I do think it's extremely important to acknowledge the gains that were made by the civil rights movement, the black power movement.Institutional transformations happened directly as a result of the movements that people, unnamed people, organized and gave their lives to.

--Angela Davis

You can't criticize people for wanting to have a decent life or wanting to live decently.

--Angela Davis

I'm a feminist so I believe in inhabiting contradictions. I believe in making contradictions productive, not in having to choose one side or the other side. As opposed to choosing either or, choosing both.

--Angela Davis

It is important not only to have the awareness and to feel impelled to become involved, it's important that there be a forum out there to which one can relate, an organization- a movement.

--Angela Davis

It is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo.

--Angela Davis

We can't talk about the black community. It's no longer a homogeneous community; it was never a homogeneous community.

--Angela Davis

There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.

--Angela Davis


Human beings cannot be willed and molded into non-existence.

--Angela Davis

Our leaders were assassinated, one of the things I was reading today was -- 28 Panthers were killed by the police but 300 Black Panthers were killed by other Panthers just within -- internecine warfare. It just began to seem like we were in an impossible task given what we were facing.

--Angela Davis

I think that the response to the OJ Simpson trial was based on a kind of sensibility that emerged out of the many campaigns to defend black communities against police violence.

--Angela Davis

We cannot assume that people by virtue of the fact that they are black are going to associate themselves with progressive political struggles. We need to divest ourselves the kinds of strategies that assume that black unity black political unity is possible.

--Angela Davis

I would suggest is that in the latter 1990s it is extremely important to look at the predicament of black people within the context of the globalization of capital.

--Angela Davis

Progressive art can assist people to learn what's at work in the society in which they live.

--Angela Davis

I'm thinking about some developments say in the 80s when the anti-apartheid movement began to claim more support and strength within the US. Black trade unionists played a really important role in developing this US anti-apartheid movement.

--Angela Davis

Where cultural representations do not reach out beyond themselves, there is the danger that they will function as the surrogates for activism, that they will constitute both the beginning and the end of political practice.

--Angela Davis

We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.

--Angela Davis

The early feminist argument that violence against women is not inherently a private matter, but has been privatized by the sexist structures of the state, the economy, and the family has had a powerful impact on public consciousness.

--Angela Davis

I'm no longer accepting the things I cannot change...I'm changing the things I cannot accept.

--Angela Davis

Black women have had to develop a larger vision of our society than perhaps any other group. They have had to understand white men, white women, and black men. And they have had to understand themselves. When black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every segment of society.

--Angela Davis

We must always attempt to lift as we climb.

--Angela Davis

When children attend schools that place a greater value on discipline and security than on knowledge and intellectual development, they are attending prep schools for prison.

--Angela Davis

Justice is indivisible. You can't decide who gets civil rights and who doesn't.

--Angela Davis

Now, if we look at the way in which the labor movement itself has evolved over the last couple of decades, we see increasing numbers of black people who are in the leadership of the labor movement and this is true today.

--Angela Davis

As soon as I got out of jail, as soon as my trial was over, first of all, during the time I was in jail, there was an organization called the National United Committee to Free Angela Davis, and I insisted that it be called National United Committee to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners.

--Angela Davis

I grew up in the southern United States in a city which at that time during the late '40's and early '50's was the most segregated city in the country, and in a sense learning how to oppose the status quo was a question of survival.

--Angela Davis

Obviously there are some organizations that go out on the street and say we want an end to the capitalist system. But obviously that is not going to happen as a result of just assuming that stance.

--Angela Davis

Kids these days are kind of going back to Tupac and Snoop Doggy Dogg as examples of people that stand for something.

--Angela Davis

Imprisonment has become the response of first resort to far too many of our social problems.

--Angela Davis

I'm suggesting that we abolish the social function of prisons.

--Angela Davis

Invisible, repetitive, exhausting, unproductive, uncreative -- these are the adjectives which most perfectly capture the nature of housework.

--Angela Davis

Well I teach in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. So that's my primary work. I lecture on various campuses and in various communities across the country and other parts of the world.

--Angela Davis

We have been basically persuaded that we should not talk about racism.

--Angela Davis

Walls turned sideways are bridges.

--Angela Davis

I believe profoundly in the possibilities of democracy, but democracy needs to be emancipated from capitalism. As long as we inhabit a capitalist democracy, a future of racial equality, gender equality, economic equality will elude us.

--Angela Davis

Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionarys life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime.

--Angela Davis

I decided to teach because I think that any person who studies philosophy has to be involved actively.

--Angela Davis

I'm involved in the work around prison rights in general.

--Angela Davis

First of all, I didn't suggest that we should simply get rid of all prisons.

--Angela Davis

As soon as my trial was over, we tried to use the energy that had developed around my case to create another organization, which we called the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression.

--Angela Davis

Well, we see an increasingly weaker labor movement as a result of the overall assault on the labor movement and as a result of the globalization of capital.

--Angela Davis

Radical simply means grasping things at the root.

--Angela Davis

When Bush says democracy, I often wonder what he's referring to.

--Angela Davis

Well of course there's been a great deal of progress over the last 40 years. We don't have laws that segregate black people within the society any longer.

--Angela Davis

Well for one, the 13th amendment to the constitution of the US which abolished slavery -- did not abolish slavery for those convicted of a crime.

--Angela Davis

And I guess what I would say is that we can't think narrowly about movements for black liberation and we can't necessarily see this class division as simply a product or a certain strategy that black movements have developed for liberation.

--Angela Davis

That's true but I think the contemporary problem that we are facing increasing numbers of black people and other people of color being thrown into a status that involves work in alternative economies and increasing numbers of people who are incarcerated.

--Angela Davis

The work of the political activist inevitably involves a certain tension between the requirement that position be taken on current issues as they arise and the desire that one's contributions will somehow survive the ravages of time.

--Angela Davis

Poor people, people of color -- especially are much more likely to be found in prison than in institutions of higher education.

--Angela Davis

Well of course I get depressed sometimes, yes I do.

--Angela Davis

The campaign against the death penalty has been -- while a powerful campaign, its participants have been those who attend all of the vigils, a relatively small number of people.

--Angela Davis

We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.

--Angela Davis

You can never stop and as older people, we have to learn how to take leadership from the youth and I guess I would say that this is what I'm attempting to do right now.

--Angela Davis

Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo -- obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.

--Angela Davis

In a sense the quest for the emancipation of black people in the U.S. has always been a quest for economic liberation which means to a certain extent that the rise of black middle class would be inevitable.

--Angela Davis

I think that has to do with my awareness that in a sense we all have a certain measure of responsibility to those who have made it possible for us to take advantage of the opportunities.

--Angela Davis

It's true that it's within the realm of cultural politics that young people tend to work through political issues, which I think is good, although it's not going to solve the problems.

--Angela Davis

I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement.

--Angela Davis

Radical simply means 'grasping things at the root.'

--Angela Davis

But at the same time you can't assume that making a difference 20 years ago is going to allow you to sort of live on the laurels of those victories for the rest of your life.

--Angela Davis

As a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people's struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against American imperialism.

--Angela Davis

My name became known because I was, one might say accidentally the target of state repression and because so many people throughout the country and other parts of the world organized around the demand for my freedom.

--Angela Davis

Yes, I think it's really important to acknowledge that Dr. King, precisely at the moment of his assassination, was re-conceptualizing the civil rights movement and moving toward a sort of coalitional relationship with the trade union movement.

--Angela Davis

To understand how any society functions you must understand the relationship between the men and the women.

--Angela Davis

What I think is different today is the lack of political connection between the black middle class and the increasing numbers of black people who are more impoverished than ever before.

--Angela Davis

What this country needs is more unemployed politicians.

--Angela Davis

Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty.

--Angela Davis

Racism is a much more clandestine, much more hidden kind of phenomenon, but at the same time it's perhaps far more terrible than it's ever been.

--Angela Davis

Racism, in the first place, is a weapon used by the wealthy to increase the profits they bring in by paying Black workers less for their work.

--Angela Davis

Yes, I am a Communist. And I will not take the fifth amendment against self-incrimination, because my political beliefs do not incriminate me, they incriminate the Nixons, Agnews, and Reagans.

--Angela Davis

Questions about the validity of violence should have been directed to those institutions that held and continue to hold a monopoly on violence: the police, the prisons, the military.

--Angela Davis

If we do not know how to meaningfully talk about racism, our actions will move in misleading directions.

--Angela Davis

Progressive struggles--whether they are focused on racism, repression, poverty, or other issues--are doomed to fail if they do not also attempt to develop a consciousness of the insidious promotion of capitalist individualism.

--Angela Davis

In the slave narrative of Moses Grandy, an especially brutal form of whipping is described in which the woman was required to lie on the ground with her stomach positioned in a hole, whose purpose was to safeguard the fetus (conceived as future slave labor).

--Angela Davis

The process of trying to assimilate into an existing category in many ways runs counter to efforts to produce radical or revolutionary results.

--Angela Davis

For most of our history the very category human has not embraced Black people and people of color. Its abstractness has been colored white and gendered male.

--Angela Davis

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