Another honor for Ms. Davis

Angela Davis in her youth

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.

Davis was the CPUSA’s candidate for president

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.

How she became famous

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.

A recent picture of Davis

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?

More laurels for Angela Davis, thug

She’s a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with America in the last half-century. There’s no reason to go over every detail of Angela Davis’s criminal history here: we already did that in a couple of pieces in 2016. But here’s a brief summary: Communist Party and Black Panthers member; secretly married to a gangster; supplied guns for a courtroom hostage-taking that ended in several deaths; took it on the lam, was finally arrested and tried, and – thanks to the radical sympathies of at least some of the jurors – was found not guilty.

She was plainly a criminal. But the times being what they were, she was seen as a political prisoner, a warrior for civil rights. A covert campaign by the USSR played a key role in shaping this image. Musicians like John Lennon and the Rolling Stones wrote songs about her; writers like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison sung her praises.

After her release, she was awarded prizes in Communist countries; supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and hung around in Cuba with Fidel Castro himself; in the US, she twice ran for vice president on the Communist Party line and became a professor at a California state university. And, thanks to a leftist media and academy, her name shone ever more brightly in the pantheon of supposed cultural heroes. Our 2016 pieces on her were occasioned by the news that she was about to win a major prize from the Brooklyn Museum for being a role model for women; we revisited her story in 2017 when she was scheduled to be awarded a human-rights accolade by an Alabama civil-rights group. Earlier this year, we noted Davis’s participation in a rally to support Ilhan Omar, the blatantly anti-Semitic Congresswoman from Minnesota.

Well, here we go again. In July, Ron Radosh, an expert on the history of American Communism, reported that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution – the Smithsonian! – was planning to honor Davis this September by showing an old “documentary” entitled Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. In fact, according to reliable accounts, this documentary is a whitewash of Davis’s career as a Communist thug. After the screening, one Rhea Combs “will interview and question Ms. Davis.”

Radosh quoted from a press release issued by the museum: “we all recognize that Prof. Davis is a figure for the ages, as fascinating to us now as she was at the height of her incarceration and trial.” The release called Davis’s life “a quintessential American story of activism” and claimed that she had been “criminalized and named on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list” not because she had supplied guns for a crime but “because of her activism in support of social justice.”

As Radosh writes, this is an outright lie. And it’s a lie being told by one of America’s premier cultural institutions about one of America’s most despicable public figures.