Activist, '60s Icon Angela Davis Coming to City Oct. 19

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: Announcements

(Above: Angela Davis speaks to students in Wellington, New Zealand, during a 2007 lecture tour. Jonathan Ah Kit photo via Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons.)


Legendary activist Angela Davis --- who was fired from her job at the urging of Ronald Reagan and was labeled a "dangerous terrorist" by Richard Nixon --- will come to McKeesport this month to speak at Penn State Greater Allegheny.

Davis, 74, will be the third keynote speaker in the university's Crossing Bridges Summit and is scheduled to speak at 7 p.m. Oct. 19.

Although Davis' visit to McKeesport has not yet been formally announced by the university, tickets for students are still available on the EventBrite website and a spokesman confirmed that she is scheduled to appear. No additional tickets remain for the general public, according to EventBrite.


The "Crossing Bridges Summit" is designed to examine ways that Penn State Greater Allegheny can serve as a catalyst for social change and bridge racial divides in the Pittsburgh-area community.

Previous speakers included McKeesport native, All-American football star and Penn State trustee Brandon Short and award-winning author and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson.

Davis' talk is tentatively titled, "Angela Davis Speaks: A Conversation about Modern Movements on the State of Race, Gender and Politics."

An organizer for the event said Davis, an emeritus professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz, will discuss race, gender and politics and try to engage those topics in the context of McKeesport and the surrounding area.


Possibly one of the most controversial Americans of the 1960s and '70s, Davis is a native of Birmingham, Ala., who came of age while the civil-rights movement was roiling the South.

In her childhood, Davis' neighborhood was bombed several times by white supremacists who were attempting to drive out middle-class African-American families. She was friends with several of the people killed and injured in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church.

Educated at Brandeis University and the University of California at San Diego, Davis earned her doctorate at Humboldt University, located in what was then Communist-controlled East Berlin, Germany.


Upon her return to the United States, Davis was recruited to teach at UCLA.

But her emerging reputation as an outspoken advocate for equal rights for women and African-Americans, her criticism of the Vietnam War, and her membership in the U.S. Communist Party led the FBI to track her movements.

In 1969, then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan convinced the university to fire her.

In 1970, after a hostage incident at the Marin County, Calif., courthouse left a judge and three other people --- including the hostage-taker --- dead, the guns used in the crime were traced to Davis. She was charged as an accomplice and put on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List.

Although President Nixon labeled her a "dangerous terrorist," Davis maintained her innocence and an all-white jury eventually acquitted her of a charge of criminal conspiracy.


In more recent years, Davis' research and work has focused on the problems of the so-called "prison-industrial complex" --- especially the use of for-profit businesses to operate jails and correctional and court facilities --- and the high percentage of young African-American males incarcerated in the United States.

Davis also has been a sharp critic of the widening gap between the richest and poorest Americans; the country's immigration policies; and the application of the death penalty.

She is the author of 10 books and has been the subject herself of films and books, as well as songs by a variety of artists, including Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones and John Lennon and Yoko Ono.


Although Davis' lecture is free, advance registration is mandatory and general admission tickets are no longer available.

Davis will answer "respectful" questions following her talk, the university said, and a separate event will be held at 12 noon Oct. 20 for people who attended Davis' lecture to meet and discuss it.

For additional information, contact Erica Tachoir at eec16@psu.edu.

Originally published September 30, 2018.

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