Interview with Angela Davis

Tell me, can you describe how, you were talking before about how the definition of a political prisoner expanded. Can you, can you relate that, that transformation that went on within the prisoner movement.


Well initially, when we talked about political prisoners, we referred to those who had been sent to prison as a result of their work, their political work in the community. And of course we had scores of Black Panthers who were political prisoners. I was a political prisoner because I was arrested, ah, and charged with murder, kidnapping and conspiracy, not because I had committed those crimes but because of my, ah, political work. We began to realize that, ah, the definition of political prisoner also needed to include those who did not necessarily go to prison because they, ah, had been politically involved but who became politicized within the prison system and therefore were subjected to long prison terms and other forms of repression as a result. George Jackson for example, who, ah, was sent to prison as a result of being convicted of a $70 robbery. When I met George Jackson, when I became aware of his case and became active in the Soledad Brothers' case he had been in prison for ten years for $70. And it was clear that, that they had refused to release him on parole because he was trying to organize his, ah, ah, colleagues in prison. He was doing, ah, the kind of work that was very threatening to the prison system because he was calling for unity. He was calling upon, ah, people to demand better prison conditions, better food, the, the right to read whatever they wanted to read. So definitely George Jackson was a political prisoner even before he was charged with the killing of the Soledad guard. And then we came to realize that there was a whole category of prisoners who may not have been politically active in the community, may not have been politically active in prison but were in prison for political reasons. They were in prison because of the function of racism in this society. They were in prison because of the, the function of, of class exploitation. We, we took a look at the prison system and realized that, ah, if you were wealthy, you didn't go to prison. If you did at all, you went to what we used to call the country club prisons, ah, you know, where you could play tennis and ride horses and, and that type of thing. So, that, ah, expanded into a movement of support within the community, taking on the function of the prison system in general and calling for the abolition of the prison system as it exists, ah, as it existed then as it exists today.


Can you talk about--