Angela Davis Quotes

Angela Davis Quotes

Angela Davis is a renowned activist, scholar, and author known for her work in social justice and human rights. She was born on January 26, 1944, in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up in a segregated community during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.

Davis earned her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University in 1965 and later attended the University of Frankfurt in Germany, where she studied philosophy with Theodor Adorno. She then returned to the United States and completed her doctoral degree in philosophy at the University of California, San Diego.

Throughout her career, Davis has been a vocal advocate for racial, economic, and gender equality. She became involved with the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and was a member of the Communist Party USA from 1969 until 1991. In 1970, Davis was accused of murder and kidnapping in connection with a courtroom shootout in which four people were killed. She went into hiding and was eventually arrested, tried, and acquitted of all charges.

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After her release, Davis continued her activism and became a professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University and later at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has also written numerous books on a variety of topics, including race, gender, and the prison industrial complex.

Davis is widely recognized as one of the most influential and important figures in the struggle for civil rights and social justice. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the Lenin Peace Prize and the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Today, she continues to be a leading voice in the fight for equality and justice.

The profound insights and unwavering conviction of Angela Davis as she shares her powerful words on social justice and civil rights.

Famous Angela Davis Quotes

1. “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

2. “Radical simply means “grasping things at the root.”

3. “The idea of freedom is inspiring. But what does it mean? If you are free in a political sense but have no food, what’s that? The freedom to starve?”

4. “You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.”

5. “[Prison] relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.”

6. “We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society.”

We have to talk about liberating minds as well as liberating society. - Angela Davis

7. “Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.”

8. “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”

9. “If they come for me in the morning, they will come for you in the night.”

10. “Sometimes we have to do the work even though we don’t yet see a glimmer on the horizon that it’s actually going to be possible.”

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11. “When Obama was elected president, a prisoner said “one black man in the White House doesn’t make up for one million black men in the Big House.”

12. “We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.”

13. “It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.”

14. “I don’t think we have any alternative other than remaining optimistic. Optimism is an absolute necessity, even if it’s only optimism of the will, as Gramsci said, and pessimism of the intellect.”

15. “The prison therefore functions ideologically as an abstract site into which undesirables are deposited, relieving us of the responsibility of thinking about the real issues afflicting those communities from which prisoners are drawn in such disproportionate numbers. This is the ideological work that the prison performs—it relieves us of the responsibility of seriously engaging with the problems of our society, especially those produced by racism and, increasingly, global capitalism.”

16. “I feel that if we don’t take seriously the ways in which racism is embedded in structures of institutions, if we assume that there must be an identifiable racist who is the perpetrator, then we won’t ever succeed in eradicating racism.”

17. “Everyone is familiar with the slogan “The personal is political” — not only that what we experience on a personal level has profound political implications, but that our interior lives, our emotional lives are very much informed by ideology. We oftentimes do the work of the state in and through our interior lives. What we often assume belongs most intimately to ourselves and to our emotional life has been produced elsewhere and has been recruited to do the work of racism and repression.”

18. “We have inherited a fear of memories of slavery. It is as if to remember and acknowledge slavery would amount to our being consumed by it. As a matter of fact, in the popular black imagination, it is easier for us to construct ourselves as children of Africa, as the sons and daughters of kings and queens, and thereby ignore the Middle Passage and centuries of enforced servitude in the Americas. Although some of us might indeed be the descendants of African royalty, most of us are probably descendants of their subjects, the daughters and sons of African peasants or workers.”

19. “Pregressive art can assist people to learn not only about the objective forces at work in the society in which they live, but also about the intensity social character of their interior lives. Ultimately, it can propel people toward social emancipation”

20. “I try never to take myself for granted as somebody who should be out there speaking. Rather, I’m doing it only because I feel there’s something important that needs to be conveyed.”

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21. “In many ways you can say that the prison serves as an institution that consolidates the state’s inability and refusal to address the most pressing social problems of this era.”

22. “Whenever you conceptualize social justice struggles, you will always defeat your own purposes if you cannot imagine the people around whom you are struggling as equal partners.”

23. “Anyway I don’t think we can rely on governments, regardless of who is in power, to do the work that only mass movements can do.”

24. “If we do not know how to meaningfully talk about racism, our actions will move in misleading directions.”

If we do not know how to meaningfully talk about racism, our actions will move in misleading directions. - Angela Davis

25. “Our histories never unfold in isolation. We cannot truly tell what we consider to be our own histories without knowing the other stories. And often we discover that those other stories are actually our own stories.”

26. “A woman of color formation might decide to work around immigration issues. This political commitment is not based on the specific histories of racialized communities or its constituent members, but rather constructs an agenda agreed upon by all who are a part of it. In my opinion, the most exciting potential of women of color formations resides in the possibility of politicizing this identity – basing the identity on politics rather than the politics on identity.”

27. “Neoliberal ideology drives us to focus on individuals, ourselves, individual victims, individual perpetrators. But how is it possible to solve the massive problem of racist state violence by calling upon individual police officers to bear the burden of that history and to assume that by prosecuting them, by exacting our revenge on them, we would have somehow made progress in eradicating racism?”

28. “One of the reasons that so many people of color and poor people are in prison is that the deindustrialization of the economy has led to the creation of new economies and the expansion of some old ones – I have already mentioned the drug trade and the market for sexual services. At the same time, though, there are any number of communities that more than welcome prisons as a source of employment. Communities even compete with one another to be the site where new prisons will be constructed because prisons create a significant number of relatively good jobs for their residents”

29. “If indeed all lives mattered, we would not need to emphatically proclaim that “Black Lives Matter.” Or, as we discover on the BLM website: Black Women Matter, Black Girls Matter, Black Gay Lives Matter, Black Bi Lives Matter, Black Boys Matter, Black Queer Lives Matter, Black Men Matter, Black Lesbians Matter, Black Trans Lives Matter, Black Immigrants Matter, Black Incarcerated Lives Matter. Black Differently Abled Lives Matter. Yes, Black Lives Matter, Latino/Asian American/Native American/Muslim/Poor and Working-Class White Peoples Lives matter. There are many more specific instances we would have to nane before we can ethically and comfortably claim that All Lives Matter.”

30. “The prison has become a black hole into which the detritus of contemporary capitalism is deposited. Mass imprisonment generates profits as it devours social wealth, and thus it tends to reproduce the very conditions that lead people to prison. There are thus real and often quite complicated connections between the deindustrialization of the economy—a process that reached its peak during the 1980s—and the rise of mass imprisonment, which also began to spiral during the Reagan-Bush era. However, the demand for more prisons was represented to the public in simplistic terms. More prisons were needed because there was more crime. Yet many scholars have demonstrated that by the time the prison construction boom began, official crime statistics were already falling.”

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31. “Prisons do not disappear problems, they disappear human beings.”

32. “I never saw myself as an individual who had any particular leadership powers.”

33. “We still have to struggle against the impact of racism, but it doesn’t happen in the same way. I think it is much more complicated today than it ever was.”

34. “I think in black communities today we need to encourage a lot more cross racial organizing.”

35. “We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death.”

36. “The struggle for an abolitionist democracy is aspiring to create the institutions that will truly allow for a democratic society.”

37. “We have accumulated a wealth of historical experience which confirms our belief that the scales of American justice are out of balance.”

38. “Invisible, repetitive, exhausting, unproductive, uncreative – these are the adjectives which most perfectly capture the nature of housework.”

39. “Racism cannot be separated from capitalism.”

40. “There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.”

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41.“But there’s a message there for everyone and it is that people can unite, that democracy from below can challenge oligarchy, that imprisoned migrants can be freed, that fascism can be overcome, and that equality is emancipatory.”

42.“The work of the political activist inevitably involves a certain tension between the requirement that position be taken on current issues as they arise and the desire that one’s contributions will somehow survive the ravages of time.”

43. “It is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people today to recognize their potential agency as a part of an ever-expanding community of struggle.”

44.“I don’t think it’s necessary to feel guilty. Because I know that I’m still doing the work that is going to help more sisters and brothers to challenge the whole criminal justice system, and I’m trying to use whatever knowledge I was able to acquire to continue to do the work in our communities that will move us forward.”

45. “Well of course there’s been a great deal of progress over the last 40 years. We don’t have laws that segregate black people within the society any longer.”

46.  “Progressive art can assist people to learn what’s at work in the society in which they live.”

Progressive art can assist people to learn what’s at work in the society in which they live. - Angela Davis

47.  “I believe profoundly in the possibilities of democracy, but democracy needs to be emancipated from capitalism. As long as we inhabit a capitalist democracy, a future of racial equality, gender equality, economic equality will elude us.”

48. “No march, movement, or agenda that defines manhood in the narrowest terms and seeks to make women lesser partners in this quest for equality can be considered a positive step.”

49. “It is important not only to have the awareness and to feel impelled to become involved, it’s important that there be a forum out there to which one can relate, an organization- a movement.”

50. “I think we have to really focus on the issues much more than we may have in the past. I think we have to seek to create coalitional strategies that go beyond racial lines. We need to bring black communities, Chicano communities, Puerto Rican communities, Asian American communities together.”

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51. “As a black woman, my politics and political affiliation are bound up with and flow from participation in my people’s struggle for liberation, and with the fight of oppressed people all over the world against American imperialism.”

52. “To understand how any society functions you must understand the relationship between the men and the women.”

53. “I think the importance of doing activist work is precisely because it allows you to give back and to consider yourself not as a single individual who may have achieved whatever but to be a part of an ongoing historical movement.”

54. “I think that has to do with my awareness that in a sense we all have a certain measure of responsibility to those who have made it possible for us to take advantage of the opportunities.”

55. “I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change…I’m changing the things I cannot accept.”

56. “The process of empowerment cannot be simplistically defined in accordance with our own particular class interests. We must learn to lift as we climb.”

57. “Revolution is a serious thing, the most serious thing about a revolutionary’s life. When one commits oneself to the struggle, it must be for a lifetime.”

58. “Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo – obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.”

59. “Feminism insists on methods of thought and action that urge us to think about things together that appear to be separate, and to disaggregate things that appear to naturally belong together.”

60. “We should seek out all the doors which still remain ajar, however slight the opening might be.”

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61. “But at the same time you can’t assume that making a difference 20 years ago is going to allow you to sort of live on the laurels of those victories for the rest of your life.”

62. “I sank deep into the moment, husbanding this delight, hoarding it. For I knew it would be short-lived. Work. Struggle. Confrontation lay before us like a rock-strewn road. We would walk it … But first the grass, the sun…and the people.”

63. “It is easy to feel discouraged and simply let go. There is no shame in that. We are, after all, engaged in a struggle that seems, if we look at it using a mainstream political framework and through a mass media prism, unwinnable. On the other hand, if we take a step back, look at things from a broader angle, reflecting on what is happening all over the world and the history of struggle, the history of solidarity movements, it becomes clear, sometimes even obvious, that seemingly indestructible forces can be, thanks to people’s willpower, sacrifices, and actions, easily broken.”

64. “You can never stop and as older people, we have to learn how to take leadership from the youth and I guess I would say that this is what I’m attempting to do right now.”

65. “Black women have had to develop a larger vision of our society than perhaps any other group. They have had to understand white men, white women, and black men. And they have had to understand themselves. When black women win victories, it is a boost for virtually every segment of society.”

66. “Feminism involves so much more than gender equality and it involves so much more than gender. Feminism must involve consciousness of capitalism (I mean the feminism that I relate to, and there are multiple feminisms, right). So it has to involve a consciousness of capitalism and racism and colonialism and post-colonialities, and ability and more genders than we can even imagine and more sexualities than we ever thought we could name.”

67. “Justice is indivisible. You can’t decide who gets civil rights and who doesn’t.”

Justice is indivisible. You can't decide who gets civil rights and who doesn't. - Angela Davis

68. “We live in a society of an imposed forgetfulness, a society that depends on public amnesia.”

69. “When children attend schools that place a greater value on discipline and security than on knowledge and intellectual development, they are attending prep schools for prison.”

70. “Walls turned sideways are bridges.”

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71. “We must always attempt to lift as we climb”

72. “When someone asks me about violence, I just find it incredible, because what it means is that the person who’s asking that question has absolutely no idea what black people have gone through, what black people have experienced in this country, since the time the first black person was kidnapped from the shores of Africa.”

73. “There is an unbroken line of police violence in the United States that takes us all the way back to the days of slavery, the aftermath of slavery, the development of the Ku Klux Klan. There is so much history of this racist violence that simply to bring one person to justice is not going to disturb the whole racist edifice.”

74. “The food we eat masks so much cruelty. The fact that we can sit down and eat a piece of chicken without thinking about the horrendous conditions under which chickens are industrially bred in this country is a sign of the dangers of capitalism, how capitalism has colonized our minds. The fact that we look no further than the commodity itself, the fact that we refuse to understand the relationships that underly the commodities that we use on a daily basis. And so food is like that.”

75. “We are never assured of justice without a fight.”

76. “I have a hard time accepting diversity as a synonym for justice. Diversity is a corporate strategy.”

77. “Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.'”

78. “We don’t go further than what Marx called the exchange value of the actual object – we don’t think about the relations that that object embodies – and were important to the production of that object whether it’s our food or our clothes or our I-pads or all the materials we use to acquire an education at an institution like this. That would really be revolutionary to develop a habit of imagining the human relations and non human relations behind all of the objects that constitute our environment.”

79. “It is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo.”

80. “Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo – obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.”

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81. “I think the quest for civil rights for migrants and refugees is one of the most important issues in the world right now.”

82. “I think that many people have forgotten that, if knowledge is to have any meaning, if it is to be useful, it should have an impact in the world.”

83. “I’m sorry, but there are just some people you do not want to have a conversation with.”

84. “Once they start co-opting our vocabulary, it is a sign that we have been effective. On the other hand, it is also a sign that we need to be even more radical.”

85. “I call him the occupant now, because I have such trouble using the word President.”

I call him the occupant now, because I have such trouble using the word President. - Angela Davis

86. “Children are the hope of the world.”

87. “One cannot equate the criticism of Israel with words like antisemitism.”

88. “I cringe when I hear words like ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’.”

89. “How come that white women have come to symbolize as the universal marker for women?”

90. “I do want to be criticized. (…) I think that critical engagement is so important.”

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91. “It is important to value the victories that we have won.”

92. “Leadership does not have to be individualistic (…) it can be collective.”

93. “What does it mean to achieve freedom?”

94. “I don’t know if we will ever reach a point in history where we achieved victory.”

95. “Movements produce knowledge.”

96. “Movements have lives.”

97. “We are Produced by History.”

98.“I’m suggesting that we abolish the social function of prisons.”

99. “The campaign against the death penalty has been – while a powerful campaign, its participants have been those who attend all of the vigils, a relatively small number of people.”

100. “Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty.”

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