Revolutionary album: Angela as a IO-year-old Girl Scout in Birmingham,and (seated, top right) at a 1964 family reunion after study abroad. ..
d"o er son s arrest, can o no wrong.Miss Davis's adherents were just asstrenuous in her cause. They marchedup and down before the Women's Houseof Detention where she was being held,and it seemed apparent that the chant.'Free Angela!" would well up from radi-cal rallies for some time to come. Afterher arraignment, a spectator inside thecourthouse shouted "We love you fromthe West Coast to the East Coast-andyou will be free." Miss Davis, whosehands were handcuffed before her,raised them about waist high and, smil-ing slightly, gave a clenched-6st salute.CROSSROADSTo people who had known AngelaDavis in earlier and happier times, asqualid New York jail cell seemed a gro-tesque way station in an extraordinarycareer. For she had made her spiritualhome at the crossroads of two cultures,and somehow she managed to inhabitthem both, declining the rewards thateither would have bestowed on her ifshe had been willing to live within itsrules alone. She could have opted forthe life of scholarship-a precociouschildhood, attendance at the best ofschools, junior year at the Sorbonne andgraduate study in Germany, Europeanliterature, Kantian philosophy, professor-ships, tenure and learned publications.Or she could have chosen the world ofthe streets-of swelling black conscious-ness in the nation's ghettos, mass rallies,Afro hair-do's, angry slogans, guns andviolent death. But she chose both worldsat once-and the tension lent specialpower and poignance to her story.As the daughter of a schoolteacher(her mother has an M.A. from New YorkUniversity) and a reasonably prosperousservice-station owner, Angela had op-portunities afforded few other black chil-dren in Birmingham, Ala. At the age of2 she began piano lessons, and her par-ents rewarded her with a Wurlitzer con-sole piano on her sixth birthday. When20
Robbe-Grillet) under the direction orProf. Murray Sachs, who became thefirst of a string of academics to pro-nounce her "one of the two or three beststudents I've ever had" or some variationon that superlative theme. Her junioryear she spent in Paris. A classmate,Vivian Auslander, recalls her as bothscholarly ("she had index cards of almosteverything we read") and shy ("youcould hardly hear her when the teachercalled on her, but she always had theright answer") .So far, there had been few hints ofanything but a profound and original in-tellectual fascination with the themes ofContinental literature. But when Angelareturned to Brandeis, she met HerbertMarcuse. He was in his final year ofteaching at Brandeis, an eclectic Marx-ist philosopher who laid much weight onsubtle forms of repression within capital-ist democracies and the psychic need forindividual acts of refusal-to break s(J-ciety's molds. Angela found herselfstrongly attracted to his views: she tookup the study of philosophy and, at theend of the year, instead of gOillg toteach at a Southern university as herliterature teachers urged, she em.olledfor graduate work in philosophy at theMarxist-oriented Institute of Social Re-search at Johann Wolfgang Goethe Uni-versity in Frankfurt.GOING HOMEIn Frankfurt, recalls sociology profes-sor Oskar Negt, "she learned Germana remarkably short period and grasped
lant and Hegel in equally amazing fash-ion." He particularly remembersrate seminar paper of hers on "Theception of Interest in -the Powers of Pure Reason."doubt, refined her sophisticatedtual brand of Marxism-even as shesponded to the gathering racialtion back in the U .S. According toWittenberg, a German student toshe was very close in those days, she
she was 3, her mother took her to apoetry reading by Langston Hughes andled her up to meet the poet afterward.Angela was swift to demonstrate hercultural precocity. "I like your poems,Mr. Hughes," she allowed. "I know onetoo-'Mary had a little Iamb. ..' " Despitesuch sallies, most of her teachers, boththen and later, sensed she was a shy,standoffish sort. " At school," her motherrecalls, "she'd never volunteer. But ifshe was called on, she'd know the an-swer. I'd tell her, 'Angela, you've got tospeak up. If you know something, you've
' "got to express yourse .There was one thing that every blackchild growing up in Birmingham in themid-1950s couldn't help knowing, andthat was the racial furies abroad withinthe town. The Davis family lived, alongwith many other middle-class Negroes,on what came to be called "DvnamiteHill" after white night riders begin bombattacks on the homes of the civil-rightsleaders clustered there. She knew someof the four black girls killed in the blastthat devastated a church and Sundayschool in September 1963. "My politicalinvolvement," she declared in an inter-view last year, "stems from my existencein the South."When Angela was 15, a representa-tive of New York's Elisabeth Irwin HighSchool, a socially progressive privateschool, came to Birmingham looking fortalented black children to recruit. Herown high school recommended her, andshe didn't hesitate an instant before ac-cepting. Things were not easy for her atElisabeth Irwin-she had never, for ex-ample, studied any French. In responseto the challenge, she majored inFrench, graduated with distinction andwent on to win a scholarship at BrandeisUniversity.At Brandeis she pursued the literarystudies that had become her chief inter-est: French literature continued to beher major Geld. She wrote her honorsessay (a study of French author Alain