Yale University is widely considered one of the world’s leading institutions of higher education. When it wants to celebrate Martin Luther King Day by inviting a prominent individual to give a keynote speech, it presumably has its pick of illustrious black thinkers and civil-rights activists. This year, it chose Angela Davis. Specifically, Davis was selected by Risë Nelson, the assistant dean of Yale College and director of its Afro-American Cultural Center, which co-sponsored the event along with the Department of African American Studies, the Yale College Dean’s Office, and Dwight Hall.
Regular readers of this site will know that this is far from the first time in recent years that Davis has been honored by a major cultural or educational institution. In 2016, the Brooklyn Museum awarded her a major prize for supposedly being a role model for women. In 2017, an Alabama group planned to give her an award for her purported contributions to civil rights, but changed its mind after a Holocaust Education Center, also in Alabama, pointed out that Davis supports the movement to boycott Israel. In 2019, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution honored Davis with a special screening of a film that whitewashes her life story. These were far from her first awards. In 1979, the Soviet Union presented Davis with the Lenin Prize.
We’ve covered the details of Davis’s story more than once on this site. We’ve done it because few Americans are more emblematic than Angela Davis of the perverse post-1960s practice by establishment institutions of honoring thugs, bigots, enemies of freedom, and enthusiasts for totalitarianism as heroes of freedom and human rights. We’ve also returned repeatedly to Davis’s story because, despite all the attention we’ve accorded to the truth about her, mainstream media organs have sugarcoated the reality and millions of Americans remain ignorant of it.
The facts of Davis’s life are incontrovertible. As a young member of the Black Panthers, she acquired the guns carried by a fellow Panther, Jonathan Jackson, when he walked into a California courtroom where yet another Panther, James McClain, was on trial. Jackson handed guns to the defendant and to two convicts who were serving as witnesses, and the four of them then took the judge, prosecutor, and three jurors hostage in an effort to free Jackson’s older brother, George, from prison. There ensured a shootout in which the judge and three of the hostage-takers were killed, the prosecutor paralyzed, and a juror wounded. Placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List for her role in this crime, Davis took it on the lam. She was eventually captured, but thanks to a campaign funded by an international network of Communists she ended up being freed by a northern California jury containing more than its share of sympathetic radicals. Thanks, moreover, to the leftist slant of the hiring committees at many American universities in recent decades, Davis has been able to make a career in the academy.
We’ve mentioned the widespread tendency to whitewash Davis’s background. In reporting on Davis’s speech at Yale, Ella Goldblum of the Yale Daily News quoted her as saying that “People of African descent in the Americas have embodied the quest for freedom for five long centuries,” but didn’t mention that, back in the day, she was a big fan of the USSR, not known for its freedom, or that she remains an admirer of the Castro regime in Cuba. No, Goldblum chose instead to describe Davis as “a leftist activist, academic, philosopher and author of over ten books on class, feminism and the U.S. prison system,” as a “star of the Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s,” and as a sometime member of the Black Panther party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the American Communist Party. Here’s how the Goldblum described the episode that defined her life: “She was imprisoned for 16 months for her alleged involvement in the armed seizure of a Marin County Courthouse in California and was released on bail and eventually acquitted.” Ironically, Goldblum’s whitewash of Davis described her as criticizing “the tendency to whitewash [Martin Luther King’s] struggle against ‘unjust peace.’” Goldblum’s article concluded with glowing comments by people who had attended the event. One of them liked how Davis “placed feminism as a central part of all freedom movements”; another said that Davis made her feel “empowered to be more active in her community.” Was any of these people aware of the precise way in which Davis, when she was much closer to their own age, chose to be “active in her community”? Is it really possible to graduate from Yale University believing that Angela Davis is a pillar of freedom?