College professor, author, scholar, women’s rights…, civil rights activist
By Ayesha K. Mustafaa
Political activist and scholar Angela Davis was the guest Presidential Lecturer at Tougaloo College Thursday, October 22, 2015. She spoke for just over an hour before a packed house in the historic Woodworth Chapel on campus, with an overflow crowd directed to a nearby hall.
Davis connected to her Mississippi audience, first by giving a roll call of all the veterans of the Civil Rights movement who were borne out of the experiences of this state – from Medgar Evers and Fannie Lou Hamer to Emmet Till and Jimmie Travis.
She zeroed in on the social issues of today, particularly the overcrowding in prisons all over the country; pointing out that there are more people in U.S. prisons than in any other country. She also said more attention must be given to women in prisons.
Davis said of the “prison industrial complex” that it is a system that “cannot be fixed; it has to be completely abolished.” She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, a national organization dedicated to the dismantling of the prison system.
Regarding the proliferation of guns in this country, some 300 million in the hands of citizens, she said “guns must be banned” which also means “guns with police officers also must be banned” – relating that if the citizens don’t have guns, then the police will not need them.
She urged her audience, mixed with students, faculty and community leaders, to stay vigilant. While the task may seem insurmountable, she said continue trying to make a difference every day. She also urged them to stay vigilant during this presidential election and stay informed.
During the question and answer session, Davis was asked how she “really felt” when she found out she was on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. Davis responded, “Scared to death.” She spent 18 months in jail while on trial. While in jail, she could hear supports rallying “Free Angela Davis.” She said she sent word to them to add “… and All Political Prisoners.”
She related her own legal battles of the early 1970s when prosecutors were seeking four capital offenses against her, and if convicted she said they wanted to put her “to death four times.”
Standing in Woodworth Chapel, Davis revealed a much softer persona than expected, not as a radical who may have been hardened by harsh experiences. She was almost soft spoken, more as a caring professor urging her students to stay the course, work hard, be prepared and help the less fortunate.
Tougaloo President Beverly W. Hogan closed the historic visit, telling Davis that she can now add to her many milestones that she “spoke in this historic Woodworth Chapel on the grounds of this historic institution Tougaloo.”
Davis is the author of nine books and has lectured throughout Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and South Aåmerica. Her most recent book, published this October, is titled “Freedom Is A Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine and the Foundations of a Movement.”