Angela Yvonne Davis (born January 26, 1944) is an American political activist, scholar, and author. She emerged as a nationally prominent counterculture activist and radical in the 1960s, as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement despite never being an official member of the party. Prisoner rights have been among her continuing interests; she is the founder of Critical Resistance, an organization working to abolish the prison-industrial complex. She is a retired professor with interests are in feminism, African-American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music, social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons.
She considers herself an abolitionist, not a “prison reformer,” and has referred to the United States prison system as the “Prison-industrial complex”. Davis suggested focusing social efforts on education and building “engaged communities” to solve various social problems now handled through state punishment. Davis was one of the founders of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to building a movement to abolish the prison industrial complex. In recent work, she argues that the prison system in the United States more closely resembles a new form of slavery than a criminal justice system.
As early as 1969 Davis began publicly speaking, voicing her opposition to the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and the prison industrial complex, and her support of gay rights and other social justice movements. In 1969 she blamed imperialism for the troubles suffered by oppressed populations. “We are facing a common enemy and that enemy is Yankee Imperialism, which is killing us both here and abroad. Now I think anyone who would try to separate those struggles, anyone who would say that in order to consolidate an anti-war movement, we have to leave all of these other outlying issues out of the picture, is playing right into the hands of the enemy”, she declared. In 2001 she publicly spoke against the war on terror, the prison industrial complex, and the broken immigration system and told people that if they wanted to solve social justice issues they had to “hone their critical skills, develop them and implement them.” Later, after the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, she declared, the “horrendous situation in New Orleans,” is due to the structures of racism, capitalism, and imperialism with which our leaders run this country.