Political activist discusses rethinking history

Tracy Deutmeyer

As a grand finale to Women’s Week for “Women Warriors,” political activist Angela Davis spoke to a crowd of nearly 600 people in the Great Hall on Friday night.

Davis, who quickly commented about the Catt Hall debate, said Iowa State should be grateful to the September 29th Movement for its work with racial debate.

“The movement is engaging in a racial debate in a way that has not happened in years,” she said.

Davis, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and renowned author of five books, has taken a role in political activism since she was young.

However, Davis first captured national attention when former California Governor Ronald Reagan removed her from her teaching position at UCLA because of her roles with social activism and membership with the Communist Party.

One year later in 1970, Davis was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List on false charges. She was later acquitted of the charges in 1972.

Reagan vowed that Davis would never teach in the University of California school system again. Today Davis is the first African-American to hold a tenured professorship at the U of C at Santa Cruz.

“As painful as it might be to some of you, it’s important to acknowledge that the Catt Hall controversy is not about a historical figure, but rather about how we are rethinking history. It will tell us what present challenges we are raising,” Davis said.

Davis said history is also the heart of the affirmative action debate.

Davis talked about the present situation of affirmative action in California. She said forces of conservatism surround the California society.

“California is a society with closed borders, without and within,” she said.

Davis said 75 percent of young men in California have been arrested at least once. She also said that public employment in California is closing its doors to many groups of minorities.

“California society has attempted to return to the time when white supremacy was the order of the day,” she said. “We need to take steps to reverse that direction.”

Graduate student Nicole Noland said when people heard Angela Davis was coming to speak, people thought she was just going to talk about issues that were pro-black.

“I was surprised to hear that 44 departments supported Angela Davis coming here,” Noland said.

“I think she just blew people’s minds about stereotypes.”