Angela Davis, a prominent civil rights activist and darling of the radical left, will headline the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon's annual Liberty Dinner at the Oregon Convention Center March 9.
Davis, 74, who had connections to the Black Panthers and led the Communist Party of the USA in the 1960s and 1970s, later became one of the most prominent activists and academic thinkers on issues such as race, feminism, and the prison abolition movement.
Her take on the prison-industrial complex aligns Davis with one of the ACLU of Oregon's primary goals—reforming the criminal justice system. The ACLU started a campaign last year to educate voters on their district attorneys and has represented Oregon inmates with civil rights complaints.
In the 1970s, Davis gained national notoriety after being arrested for supplying guns in the attempted escape of her lover, George Jackson, and two other inmates who had been accused of killing a white prison guard at the Soledad State Prison in California. Three days earlier, a white guard shot and killed three black inmates in the prison yard below his lookout post.
Davis secretly exchanged love letters with Jackson while he was held in solitary confinement on a false charge of stealing gasoline. Jackson's 17-year-old brother, Jonathon, took control of a California courthouse by holding the judge, attorneys and jurors at gunpoint. He loaded hostages and the three defendants in a van and tried to escape. Police opened fire on the vehicle.
In the chaos, the judge was shot in the head by Jonathon Jackson's shotgun – but he was also struck in the chest by a bullet fired by police. Either injury could have been the fatal blow.
Davis bought the guns used to bust Jackson and two other inmates out of court – a crime she was arrested for and eventually released on bail after thousands of people protested her incarceration.
She was acquitted on all charges by an all-white jury in in 1972.
Davis taught philosophy at UCLA in the late 1960s and has written several books that rail against the prison-industrial complex and tackle issues of sexism, racism and other injustices.
The Liberty Dinner is an annual fundraiser that supports the ACLU's efforts to "fight for the rights of all people in Oregon."
"This year, the event will honor the voices of the resistance," spokeswoman Sarah Armstrong said in a statement, "that are re-imagining justice and equity and rethinking the role of the justice system and the systemic challenges standing in the way of a fair and free society."