Interview with Angela Davis

I would like to now move on and have you relate what happened to you and your job at UCLA and how that, because of the notoriety it brought you, drew you into the prison movement. You made that wonderful link before about George Jackson contacting you and the other Soledad Brothers contacting you.


Well, I was hired to teach in the Philosophy Department at UCLA in the fall of 1969. I had joined the Communist Party a year earlier. Before I had the opportunity to teach my first class I was fired by the regents of the University of California, an ex-officio member of which was Ronald Reagan. As a result of the enormous amount of publicity that was, ah, focused on me by virtue of that firing I received letters, ah, countless numbers of letters from prisoners all over the country. George Jackson wrote me. Ruchell Magee, who was my co-defendant, ah, wrote me, and later I began to recognize through the work that I did in the case of the Soledad Brothers that it was very important to bring into the movement of that period a consciousness of what was happening to people in prison. Previously we had worked primarily around political prisoners, or primarily around people who had been arrested because of their political beliefs and political activities: Huey Newton, Erica Huggins, Bobby Seale, the New York 21, the LA 18, all of those cases. But we hadn't really taken a look at the function of the prison system in our society. As a result of working to free the Soledad Brothers I became increasingly aware of the need to integrate an understanding of the social function of the prison system into the work that we were doing, calling for political equality, ah, the work that we were doing in the community against police crimes and police brutality, so that when I fought for my right to teach on the campus at UCLA, I always included in that analysis the fact that there were, ah, three young Black men who were victims of the very same repression which I was confronting but they stood to lose their lives as a result of the political work they had done within the prison system. I stood to lose my job as a result of my political activities, ah, and, and my work.