Featuring a new introduction by the author, Angela Davis: An Autobiography is a classic account of a life in struggle.
Angela Davis has been a political activist at the cutting edge of the Black Liberation, feminist, queer, and prison abolitionist movements for more than 50 years. First published and edited by Toni Morrison in 1974, An Autobiography is a powerful and commanding account of her early years in struggle. Davis describes her journey from a childhood on Dynamite Hill in Birmingham, Alabama, to one of the most significant political trials of the century: from her political activity in a New York high school to her work with the U.S. Communist Party, the Black Panther Party, and the Soledad Brothers; and from the faculty of the Philosophy Department at UCLA to the FBI’s list of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Told with warmth, brilliance, humor and conviction, Angela Davis’s autobiography is a classic account of a life in struggle with echoes in our own time.13
Angela Davis writes her biography like a fiction book. You feel as if you are right there with the FBI on your tail. Your heart is pounding. Fear and paranoia is moving through your body, much like it did hers as she was traveling the halls of the hotel. When the hand finally clasps her wrist you feel the imprint around your’s. This is the styling of Davis. Her story reads as a fiction novel and not a stale retelling of the facts of someone’s life. When her heart pounds, so does your’s.
I think the biggest issue I have with the book is the editing. Angela Davis: An Autobiography was originally published in 1974, then republished in 1988, and reissued again this year. I was six-years-old when the book first came out. When I was in high school, Angela Davis was not part of my history classes – nor was any Black history except for slavery. In college, once again slavery was covered and it was expanded upon with the reading of Frederick Douglas, but that is about it. It was not until much later in life, I went on to take criminal justice courses that I read Are Prisons Obsolete? by Davis that I even heard her name.
When Davis starts the book, the people and the events are known to her and the people living in 1974, but not to me and I wonder how many other people. Black history is still not covered in schools like it should be, but that is another issue for another time. I think with the republishing of this book, some context should have been added so that readers would have an idea of who, what, and when. This is a theme throughout the book. A simple addition of footnotes at the bottom of the book by an editor or shadow writer could have accomplished this and given readers further reading materials and a sense of context.
Davis provides the meat. There is heart, passion, and excellent writing in her story. She has a way with words that makes you feel as if you are right there with her. I just wish that when she says a name as if you should know it too, that I could feel in the “know” and quickly educate myself instead of feeling clueless.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t read her story. Read it. Every voice needs to be heard. It definitely puts the previous book I read by her into a different context for me. I wish my professor had told me more about Davis, or anything for that matter, instead of just reading the book for the subject matter alone. Every stone we walk on to freedom was put there by someone else and we should know who stone we are stepping on.
I received an ARC of this book and I am writing a review without prejudice and voluntarily.
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Publisher: Haymarket Books, 9781642595680, 18 January 2022
Narrator: Angela Davis