Interview with Angela Davis

How did your own prison experience expand your notion of what the prison movement had to be?


When I went to jail in New York it immediately occurred to me that there were whole areas that we had totally neglected within the prison movement having to do with women's imprisonment. While we had developed a, a solidarity movement designed to support prisoners, we had not taken on issues like, ah, the separation of mothers and their children, like the treatment of, the specific treatment of, of women who were pregnant. As a matter of fact, women had been relatively invisible in the prison movement. It was as if there were no women who ever went to prison. And this of course reflected the, ah, lack of awareness within the Black movement in general during, ah, that era of the, ah, particular role of, of women within the movement and, ah, the nature of women's oppression. So that I began immediately to write to Erica Huggins who was in jail at the same time. We shared our experiences being women in prison. We could see very concretely the, ah, open role of racism. In New York, ah, over 90 percent of the women were either Black or Puerto Rican so that racism became something that was, ah, ah, very palpable and very visible, ah, and very hurtful because we could see White women come in and go out immediately on their own recognizance, not that the White women were responsible for that but the judges were who would not give Black women, ah, O.R. or the right to leave on their own recognizance. I, I learned, ah, what many of the people whom I had been, ah, working around, must have to go through every day for weeks and months and years. I was in solitary confinement for approximately a, one year, and as hard as that was for me to endure, I realized that there were many others who did not have the opportunity to make their cases heard as I did. At least I was aware of the fact that there were hundreds, thousands of people out, ah, organizing for me, all over the country, all over the world. So.


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