The Angela Davis Moment

The elite media canonize an apologist for revolutionary violence and totalitarianism.

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Radical professor and activist Angela Davis has enjoyed a resurgent popularity among left-wing activists for the past several years, ever since she was one of the stars of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March. Now, some people in progressive media seem determined to make 2020 the Year of Angela Davis — or perhaps the Year of Angela Davis’s Canonization.

Now 76, Davis turned into an international celebrity almost overnight half a century ago, after she fled from an arrest warrant on charges of three capital felonies including conspiracy to commit murder and was arrested in October 1970 after two months on the run. The University of California philosophy professor who was also a Communist activist and a member of the Black Panther Party was embraced as a hero by the American and European left. After her acquittal (more on which later), her fame faded, and for years she received only intermittent attention. But now, the remnants of the old left that worshipped her and its successors in today’s “woke” left have again taken up her cause, reviving her status as a role model for young far left radicals — especially for Black Lives Matter activists in the new civil rights movement.

Last month, The New York Times chose Davis as one of the five people featured in a special issue of its “T” magazine supplement — a section that focuses on fashion, beauty, and lifestyle — dedicated to “The Greats.” (The other four are all artists.) That very choice signals to readers that Davis is a fashion and political icon for our time — we can now call her “the Great Angela Davis”!— and that one will not be reading a serious examination of her life and beliefs but a hagiography.

And a hagiography it is. The profile by Nelson George starts by discussing a mural featuring Davis on a wall in Bedford-Stuyvesant (Brooklyn, New York). Calling her a “symbol of the struggle for Black liberation, anticapitalism, and feminism,” George writes that her expression in the mural is “pensive, intelligent, challenging.”

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