Black civil rights activist Angela Davis. (AP Photo)
Republicans at Texas Tech University are trying to block Black civil rights activist Angela Davis from speaking on their campus as part of a Black History Month lecture series.
A polarizing figure, Davis was considered a radical activist and counter-culture philosopher as a prominent member of the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. After an unsuccessful attempt to free fellow activist George Jackson—of Soledad Brother fame—from a courtroom in Marin County, Calif., on Aug. 7, 1970, Davis was arrested as a suspected conspirator since the guns were registered in her name. On the run from arrest, Davis was briefly on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list and later spent some time in jail. Eventually, she was acquitted of all charges.
Davis also ran for vice president on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and 1984.
“I would rather hear from someone who has respect among the community,” Carl Tepper, chairman of the Lubbock County Republican Party, told the local FOX News affiliate. “Why wouldn’t we at every opportunity inject positive role models into our young people, rather than someone who’s so angry all the time and has nothing but consternation against the American Dream?”
Davis does have gravitas within the African-American community, however, particularly because of her critiques of the prison-industrial complex and her advocacy on prison reform. And that’s the basis of Texas Tech’s invitation—to let Davis, a professor emerita at the University of California-Santa Cruz, discuss mass incarceration in the United States.
“Texas Tech continues to serve as a national model for inclusive excellence,” said Juan Muñoz, senior vice president for Institutional Diversity, Equity and Community Engagement and vice provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, in a statement. “The caliber of speakers who will be part of our African-American Lecture Series further affirms our commitment to diversity and the profound contributions of African-Americans to our campus, state and country.”
But the institution’s student Republicans group has filed an online petition to stop the university from paying the reported fee of $12,000 for Davis’ speech.
“We believe that she goes against everything that a proud American stands for. It is for these reasons that we believe our University should not spend $12,000 on Angela Davis,” the Change.org petition reads.
So far, the petition has garnered a little over 500 signatures.
But a counter-petition has been filed by those who say the Republicans are trying to stifle free speech by a worthy Black authority figure.
“Angela Davis, whether we like it or not, is a piece of American history,” community advocate Brandale Randolph told FOX. He later added, “”We have to stop this notion that there are African-Americans that are more worthy to speak on behalf of African-Americans that others, and that notion is a slippery slope because it can lead to the idea that there are voices that need to be muted.”