Last week, a former Ten Most Wanted Fugitive learned that she descended from Pilgrim and Patriotic stock. This did not make her happy, and in fact she barely kept her composure – on national television, at that. Fifty years ago, Angela Davis was a heroine of what she and others hoped would be the American Communist Revolution. She even traveled to Communist Eastern Europe and rubbed shoulders with the First Woman In Space and with prominent servants of the Soviet and other Warsaw Pact governments. More recently she always imagined that her ancestors had nothing in common with America’s first white settlers. In keeping with that, she proposed, for example, that all whites owe reparations to all blacks, because whites “invented” slavery. Now she finds that she must number some of her bitterest racial enemies – among her own ancestors.
Who is Angela Davis?
Angela Yvonne Davis was born in 1944 in Birmingham, Alabama. Her life was unremarkable except for involvement in leftist politics at an early age. But what really formed her political identity was the education she got at Brandeis University. There she met Herbert Marcuse, a member of the Marxist “Frankfurt School” and a key man in fleshing out the “Critical Theory” of Antonio Gramsci. Moreover, she met him at a rally in support of Communism during the Cuban Missile Crisis. All this goes to Nikita S. Khrushchev’s empire-building activities, of course. The Communist Party involved itself often with groups who at the time were fighting racial segregation. (The irony of Angela Davis calling for a posture tantamount to race warfare today, must be utterly lost on her.)
Your editor remembered her first as yet another figure in the Student Demonstrations of the late Sixties and early Seventies. She wasn’t a student then, but a professor – of political science, naturally. Then in August of 1970 she appeared on television in the last place your editor expected.
Ten Most Wanted Fugitive
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., better known as “Inspector Louis Erskine” in the Quinn Martin TV show The FBI, had recently begun profiling persons on the list of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. On this occasion, he profiled Angela Davis.
The charge: interstate flight to avoid prosecution for murder and kidnapping. She seems to have furnished the guns that Jonathan Jackson used to:
- Take over a courtroom in Marin County, California,
- “Rescue” and arm two blacks who were on trial in that courtroom, and
- Take Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors hostage.
The group got into a van to drive away from the courthouse. Then one of the two defendants, James McClain, broke discipline. He fired at the police, and the police returned fire. Judge Haley took a shotgun blast (from either Jackson or one of the defendants) and a bullet from outside. Either wound would have been fatal. Jackson and both defendants died in the firefight; the prosecutor and one juror were wounded.
California authorities charged Angela Davis with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnap, and conspiracy. In California, then as now, anyone contributing in any way to a crime is just as guilty as those who pull triggers, handle burglars’ tools, whatever.
Two months later, the FBI found her at a Howard Johnson’s in New York City. Authorities returned her to California, where she faced trial – ultimately in Santa Clara County, after a change of venue. An all-white jury acquitted her of all three counts. In so doing, the jury nullified the involvement rule. She furnished the guns, but no one proved that she did so on specific assignment from Jackson. CNAV would guess that two other facts cast “reasonable doubt” on her guilt:
- Judge Haley took two wounds, not one, and the second wound was from a would-be rescuer, not a captor. Either wound would have been fatal, so the question becomes which wound came first. No one could establish that, because the surviving witnesses would scarcely be ballistics experts.
- Jackson and both the men he tried to rescue, all died in the gun battle. So the chief malefactor, and the two most likely to benefit from his act, all died. The jury might have called that square.
But probably the most likely explanation is that the jury blamed Jackson and only Jackson, not Davis. Jackson was dead – and Angela Davis wasn’t even there.
A defector’s memory
Ironically, her acquittal played a role in sowing doubt in the mind of a Russian military pilot who heard about Angela Davis’ case from a zampolit during a period of cholera quarantine. (A zampolit, literally a Political Deputy Commander, delivered political lectures to all personnel in any military unit larger than a platoon in the Soviet Armed Forces.) This officer, hearing of her case, asked himself:
You mean they allow Communists to teach in their universities? Why did the Dark Forces let her go? Why didn’t they just kill her?
Four years later, Lieutenant Viktor Ivanovich Belenko, of the Soviet Army Air Forces, would escape from Russia with his MiG-25 Foxbat, which he landed in Hakodate, Japan.
In the meantime, Davis faded into near-obscurity – because she never had the stuff from which cold-hearted and cold-blooded revolutionaries come.
A revolutionist has to be willing to fight and die – or he’s just a parlor pink. Robert A. Heinlein, from Starship Troopers (1959)
But in the meantime she wrote many books expounding on morally destructive ideologies. Some even figured in the College Board Advanced Placement African-American Studies course that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) banned. (Gov. Glenn Youngkin, R-Va., has promised to “review” that same course for possible violation of his earlier Executive Order forbidding the teaching of divisive concepts in Virginia schools.)
Angela Davis – Mayflower descendant?
On February 21, 2023, Angela Davis appeared on the program Finding Your Roots, on PBS. (Reportage for this comes fromThe Daily Wire, The Blaze and Headline USA.) As part of arranging to appear on that program, she submitted a genetic sample. “DNA testing,” by the “blot” method of Edwin Southern, is a common technique for ancestry tracing today. Mr. Gates then told her, live on the air, that she descended from William Brewster – Elder Brewster of the Mayflower.
She literally could not contain her shock. “No, no, no, no, no!” she objected, and then, “This is too much.” But that was not all. She had another white ancestor on her mother’s side – a Revolutionary War Patriot. Not only that, but Stephen Darden, after mustering out of the Continental Army, moved to Georgia, bought a farm – and owned at least six slaves.
She later said of this episode:
I always imagined my ancestors as the people who were enslaved. My mind and my heart are swirling with all of these contradictory emotions.
To anyone else, this would come only as a mild irony. Angela Davis actually avows that she finds this devastating. As well she might, considering her history, ancient and recent.
CNAV reviewed that history for a reason, but not to relitigate the case of California v. Davis. A jury possibly nullified California’s accessory-to-crime law, and jury nullification is a “thing” in California, anyway. (Consider the case of California v. O. J. Simpson.) Besides, her advocacy of destructive ideologies arguably does more damage even than Jackson killing the judge – although that comes close.
Rather, CNAV has this question for Angela Davis: how is that corruption of blood thing working out for you? You, who promote a corrosive ideology and once arguably were an accessory to murder, now find yourself descended from one of America’s first colonists, and from a Revolutionary War patriot. And we already know that this does not please you.
Michael Young, also known as “Wokal Distance” on Twitter, left this thread:
The sarcastic reaction this thread has received, misses the point. Angela Davis set great store by the “purity” of her “oppressed” pedigree. Finding out her actual ancestry throws a large wooden shoe into her self-view. Which she in fact acknowledges and bemoans.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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