Angela Davis is one of the world's most famous activists. She sits at the center of the Black Power movement and Harvard reports her personal archives have arrived at the Ivy League's library. In February, The New York Times reported that The Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study will acquire her personal archives. This includes more than 150 boxes of papers, photographs, pamphlets and other materials of her work and activism throughout her life.
“Angela Davis is at the intersection of feminism, American political radicalism and global political radicalism,” Jane Kamensky, a professor at Harvard and the director of the Schlesinger, said. “Everything from the rise of black feminism to the fall of Communism is in this collection.”
Half the funds for the purchase were contributed by Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research which is led by director Henry Louis Gates Jr. Gates acknowledges Davis as ”one of the major political theorists of the second half of the 20th century."
“Whether one agrees with her opinions or not, there’s no gainsaying her prominent place in the history of American political thought,” he said. “And her critique of the prison system and its effects on the African-American community was prophetic.”
Angela Davis, who began teaching in 1991, retired from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2008. She shared that other institutions had approached her over the years, but she liked the idea of having her papers housed near those of friends like African-American poets June Jordan and Pat Parker, legal scholar Patricia Williams, as well as the records of lesser-known women who powered various social movements.
“As a scholar and activist, I’ve always worked with others,” she said in a telephone interview with The New York Times. “I have so much respect for many of the women who have chosen to put their papers here.”
Davis’s archive ranges from her childhood in segregated Birmingham, Ala., where she was born in 1944 to activist parents; to her studies with the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse (who recalled her as his most brilliant student); to her more recent activism with groups like Critical Resistance, the prison-abolition advocacy group she helped found in 1997.
This is a moment in Black History and it is one we cannot afford to miss.
“If people should pay attention to me long after I’m gone, it’s because the movements I’ve been involved with need to be remembered,” Davis proudly shared. And we couldn't agree more.
Congratulations, Angela Davis!