Angela Davis, an activist who gained notoriety in the 1960s and 70s while working with the Communist Party USA and the Black Panther Party and whose involvement in the armed takeover of a California courtroom resulted in four deaths, will be a featured speaker next week at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event.
Davis has remained an activist and advocates on social problems related to incarceration, racial discrimination and poverty. Her presence next Wednesday at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, is meant to champion the school’s devotion to inclusion and diversity, university president James Herbert said, according to reports.
“Angela Davis’ visit to UNE reminds us of our remarkable institutional history, a history of including those who are excluded and championing those who are shunned,” Herbert said in a statement.
Erica Rousseau, director of intercultural student engagement for the university, said Davis’ appearing at the school had special meaning for her.
“Growing up and learning about heroes like Harriet Tubman and Angela Davis, I knew that black women can change the world,” Rousseau told CentralMaine.com.
The university will not focus on Davis’ past, which includes being fired from a professor position in 1969 for being a member of the Communist Party USA and later being added the FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted List.
Authorities linked her to the purchase of weapons that were later used by three inmates who took a judge and juror hostage during their trial in 1970 for killing a prison guard.
Law enforcement officials responded with a barrage of bullets and the inmates and judge died. Davis was accused of providing weapons used in the incident and was put on the FBI list until she was captured in 1972. She was later acquitted at trial.
Davis spent several few years teaching feminist studies other courses at the University of California at Santa Cruz before retiring in 2008, the Maine news site said.
She has long been a lightning rod for some who believe she shares responsibility for the courtroom attack.
Earlier this month, African-American leaders and activists criticized a decision by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama for rescinding an award honoring Davis after complaints from the Jewish community over her support of Palestinian rights and criticism of Israel.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.