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Angela and SCLC: 'Gutsy and we'll survie.' (Part II)

By Tony Hill

BECAUSE THE same doubt, within by the shared horror of white ultraviolence in Birmingham (and later in half-a-hundred Southern towns) drove both Angela Davis and SCLC to more politicized postures during the violent years of the middle and late '60s, the black preachers of SCLC have a special, protective collection for Angela. When, after the shoot-out at San Rafael, she was hunted down handcuffed, and held on capital charges, it was SCLC, perhaps more than any other organization, that came to her rescue.

Certainly, SCLC came quicker and brought more than any other major civil rights group. The fact that Angela Davis is a Communist did much to slacken the response of the NAACP and the Urban League. Both organizations receive government funds, and it wouldn't look good to the boys back at the Bureau of the Budget to see a sizeable contribution to Angela's defense fund in their annual audit. So, with their financial deficits of half-a-million dollars each that future government grants could do a lot to cure, the Urban League and the NAACP were forced to low-profile on the issue of Angela Davis.

SCLC, because it has never received direct Federal funding, was under no such constraints. Without inhibition, they gave the list of their top contributors to the Angela Davis Defense Committee, and throughout the 19 months of her imprisonment, solicited these sources in her behalf. SCLC also collaborated with the defense committee in securing the services of Howard Moore as Angela's chief counsel.

OF COURSE there were other organizations involved in the defense, most noticeably the Communist Party, and there seems to have been some friction, particularly with the CPUSA. "They wanted to sellher out, just like they did with the Scottsboro boys," says an SCLC old timer. "But we wouldn't let them."

The notion seems to have gotten into the heads of several people, inside and outside SCLC, that the Communists wanted Angela Davis to be convicted so they could make the most use of her as a proof of the unscrupulousness of American government. Precisely how this notion gained currency is somewhat obscure, but Angela Davis denies that it has any validity, as do several top SCLC staffers. Far from feeling that the interaction between C.P. and SCLC officials further alienated the two groups, she feels that their cooperation in her defense did much to bring them together.

As she told me when she was in Boston last month. "Rev. Abernathy went to speak for me in East Germany, and he was quite impressed by what he saw there. Rev. Abernathy and Dr. King taught me that socialism is the answer. Read Dr. King's last speeches, particularly the one he gave at the Riverside Church. In them, his sense of the international struggle is like my own. He had that sense in some of the earlier ones, too."

In his speech at the Riverside Church. Martin Luther King said: "These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions."

AS A MEMBER of the Communist Party. Angela Davis herself has been quite regular in supporting these revolutions and the world-wide activities of the Communist Party in general. She has even defended the policies of the CPUSSR from attacks by those upset by reports of the persecution of Soviet Jews. While in Boston to stump for Edward Teixeira, the unsuccessful C.P. candidate for state representative from Wand 14 Angela explained that the situation of Jews in Russia "has been totally blown out of proportion by the bourgeois press because they're going to do everything they can to discredit socialism."

However, there are some, whites in particular, who are distressed by Angela's dogmatic allegiance to the C.P.'s party line. In fact, they find it incomprehensible that a woman of such adventurous intelligence would become involved in the CPUSA, and, once a member, would condone actions like the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia or give so facilely conspiratorial an explanation for the reports of Soviet oppression of Jews and dissidents. But, actually, Angela is but the last in a series of black intellectuals to become prominently identified with the C.P. Like DuBois, Wright, and Robeson before her, she seems to have been led by some inner light to the conviction that the C.P. is the most effective vehicle to achieve her purposes in the arena of the international socialist struggle, and, having made that decision, is willing to keep to herself any disagreements she may have with particular C.P. policies.

Whether or and the cooperation of SCLC and the Communist Party will result in any formal, lasting alliance remains to be more However, it is clear that Angela herself has reached a working unity with SCLC, While in prison, she decided that the was going to abandon teaching to devote herself, full-time to the freeing of political prisoners. At the conclusion of her present tour of the country to thank the people in various cities who worked in her behalf, she intends to return to the West Coast and organize a national apparatus to work for the release of black and poor people now behind bars and to defend those about to be imprisoned. Already, she and SCLC have joined forces to defend Emily Butler, a young Georgia woman accused of murdering her supervisor at the Internal Revenue Service's huge installation in DeKalb County. What will eventually grow out of this alliance is also unclear, but certainly, the goals and hopes are high. As Angela Davis told the group that gathered in Martin King's old church in Atlanta when the alliance was announced: "The fight to free Emily Butler is a fight to form a society in which we ourselves are at the helm."

A FEW PEOPLE had recognized her on the plane from Birmingham. They had seen the large, rounded swell of Afro crowning the handsome, high-cheeked face, and then they had looked closer. It was unmistakably she. "That's Angela Davis," one of them said. "We would recognize her anywhere.

She walked down the gang-plank carrying a night-bag in one hand and a stack of legal pads on a clipboard cradled in her other arm. Earlier that August morning she had been sitting in her mother's kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama. Within 48 hours, she would be asleep in Moscow, perhaps dreaming of airports or roses. Inside the Atlanta terminal Hosea Williams pointed out the window at the deboarded passengers. "It's her," he said.

She was nearing black slacks and a muscle shirt and large gold earrings that slapped and patted her checks as the walked. As she approached the terminal, a photographer from one of the newsmagazines positioned himself by the door. Seeing him through the glass, she opened the door with her face hidden from him by her clipboard. Agreeably resigned, he dropped his camera to his chest. As she passed, she Jowered her clipboard and smiled at him.

Her attorney, Howard Moore, Hosea Williams and several other SCLC staffers were there to meet her. They had been waiting for more than two hours, because the airline had lost the tickets the travel-agency had booked for her and her two travelling companions several weeks before. But, they had not waited alone. Several local reporters, as well as the guy from the newsmagazine had waited with them. There was also a little black man in a dapperly cut brown sult, wearing a Tyrolean hat and carrying a camera with a long zoom list. The little men was an intelligence detective for the police department.

Angela greeted Howard Moore-whom she had not seen since the trial--most warmly of all. She kissed Hosea Williams--the shortly, scrappy preacher who led the bloody march to Pettus Bridge at Selma--and let him slide a blacksmith's arm around her. But when she saw Howard Moore, she slipped away from Hosea and, letting her clipboard fall, wrapped her arms around her attorney's neck. "Oh. Howard," she said as she hugged him. Lucky Howard.

With Hosea Williams at the lead they walked quickly to the main terminal. There, they waited a few minutes while Hosea called the church to tell them that Angela had arrived. While Angela was waiting for Hosea to return, she was suddenly swarmed on by three teen-age girls, two blacks and one white. The girls had an Instamatic, and begged Angela to pose with them for a picture. Smiling for them each time with the same slightly shy authenticity, she posed with her arms around them like a big sister, as if she was proud to be in every picture. Using the back of one of the girls for an arm-rest. She wrote each girl a warm personal autograph: "With Love, to Cindy, Angel Y. Davis... To Karen in the struggle. Angela Y. Davis."

SEVERAL WEEKS ago in Boston, she sit in the campaign headquarters at Edward Teixeira, chain-smooking Kools and said: "I don't see myself as an individual who is somehow different from the masses of people who struggled for my freedom... It was kind of an accident that things happened the way they did. It could have been someone else... I always saw my role in the struggle to be that of a different kind of worker. But now that she responsibility has been thrust upon me. I'm going to do the best I can to try to live up to it."

Certainly, SCLC came quicker and brought more than any other major civil rights group. The fact that Angela Davis is a Communist did much to slacken the response of the NAACP and the Urban League. Both organizations receive government funds, and it wouldn't look good to the boys back at the Bureau of the Budget to see a sizeable contribution to Angela's defense fund in their annual audit. So, with their financial deficits of half-a-million dollars each that future government grants could do a lot to cure, the Urban League and the NAACP were forced to low-profile on the issue of Angela Davis.

SCLC, because it has never received direct Federal funding, was under no such constraints. Without inhibition, they gave the list of their top contributors to the Angela Davis Defense Committee, and throughout the 19 months of her imprisonment, solicited these sources in her behalf. SCLC also collaborated with the defense committee in securing the services of Howard Moore as Angela's chief counsel.

OF COURSE there were other organizations involved in the defense, most noticeably the Communist Party, and there seems to have been some friction, particularly with the CPUSA. "They wanted to sellher out, just like they did with the Scottsboro boys," says an SCLC old timer. "But we wouldn't let them."

The notion seems to have gotten into the heads of several people, inside and outside SCLC, that the Communists wanted Angela Davis to be convicted so they could make the most use of her as a proof of the unscrupulousness of American government. Precisely how this notion gained currency is somewhat obscure, but Angela Davis denies that it has any validity, as do several top SCLC staffers. Far from feeling that the interaction between C.P. and SCLC officials further alienated the two groups, she feels that their cooperation in her defense did much to bring them together.

As she told me when she was in Boston last month. "Rev. Abernathy went to speak for me in East Germany, and he was quite impressed by what he saw there. Rev. Abernathy and Dr. King taught me that socialism is the answer. Read Dr. King's last speeches, particularly the one he gave at the Riverside Church. In them, his sense of the international struggle is like my own. He had that sense in some of the earlier ones, too."

In his speech at the Riverside Church. Martin Luther King said: "These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression and out of the wombs of a frail world new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. "The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light. We in the West must support these revolutions."

AS A MEMBER of the Communist Party. Angela Davis herself has been quite regular in supporting these revolutions and the world-wide activities of the Communist Party in general. She has even defended the policies of the CPUSSR from attacks by those upset by reports of the persecution of Soviet Jews. While in Boston to stump for Edward Teixeira, the unsuccessful C.P. candidate for state representative from Wand 14 Angela explained that the situation of Jews in Russia "has been totally blown out of proportion by the bourgeois press because they're going to do everything they can to discredit socialism."

However, there are some, whites in particular, who are distressed by Angela's dogmatic allegiance to the C.P.'s party line. In fact, they find it incomprehensible that a woman of such adventurous intelligence would become involved in the CPUSA, and, once a member, would condone actions like the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia or give so facilely conspiratorial an explanation for the reports of Soviet oppression of Jews and dissidents. But, actually, Angela is but the last in a series of black intellectuals to become prominently identified with the C.P. Like DuBois, Wright, and Robeson before her, she seems to have been led by some inner light to the conviction that the C.P. is the most effective vehicle to achieve her purposes in the arena of the international socialist struggle, and, having made that decision, is willing to keep to herself any disagreements she may have with particular C.P. policies.

Whether or and the cooperation of SCLC and the Communist Party will result in any formal, lasting alliance remains to be more However, it is clear that Angela herself has reached a working unity with SCLC, While in prison, she decided that the was going to abandon teaching to devote herself, full-time to the freeing of political prisoners. At the conclusion of her present tour of the country to thank the people in various cities who worked in her behalf, she intends to return to the West Coast and organize a national apparatus to work for the release of black and poor people now behind bars and to defend those about to be imprisoned. Already, she and SCLC have joined forces to defend Emily Butler, a young Georgia woman accused of murdering her supervisor at the Internal Revenue Service's huge installation in DeKalb County. What will eventually grow out of this alliance is also unclear, but certainly, the goals and hopes are high. As Angela Davis told the group that gathered in Martin King's old church in Atlanta when the alliance was announced: "The fight to free Emily Butler is a fight to form a society in which we ourselves are at the helm."

A FEW PEOPLE had recognized her on the plane from Birmingham. They had seen the large, rounded swell of Afro crowning the handsome, high-cheeked face, and then they had looked closer. It was unmistakably she. "That's Angela Davis," one of them said. "We would recognize her anywhere.

She walked down the gang-plank carrying a night-bag in one hand and a stack of legal pads on a clipboard cradled in her other arm. Earlier that August morning she had been sitting in her mother's kitchen in Birmingham, Alabama. Within 48 hours, she would be asleep in Moscow, perhaps dreaming of airports or roses. Inside the Atlanta terminal Hosea Williams pointed out the window at the deboarded passengers. "It's her," he said.

She was nearing black slacks and a muscle shirt and large gold earrings that slapped and patted her checks as the walked. As she approached the terminal, a photographer from one of the newsmagazines positioned himself by the door. Seeing him through the glass, she opened the door with her face hidden from him by her clipboard. Agreeably resigned, he dropped his camera to his chest. As she passed, she Jowered her clipboard and smiled at him.

Her attorney, Howard Moore, Hosea Williams and several other SCLC staffers were there to meet her. They had been waiting for more than two hours, because the airline had lost the tickets the travel-agency had booked for her and her two travelling companions several weeks before. But, they had not waited alone. Several local reporters, as well as the guy from the newsmagazine had waited with them. There was also a little black man in a dapperly cut brown sult, wearing a Tyrolean hat and carrying a camera with a long zoom list. The little men was an intelligence detective for the police department.

Angela greeted Howard Moore-whom she had not seen since the trial--most warmly of all. She kissed Hosea Williams--the shortly, scrappy preacher who led the bloody march to Pettus Bridge at Selma--and let him slide a blacksmith's arm around her. But when she saw Howard Moore, she slipped away from Hosea and, letting her clipboard fall, wrapped her arms around her attorney's neck. "Oh. Howard," she said as she hugged him. Lucky Howard.

With Hosea Williams at the lead they walked quickly to the main terminal. There, they waited a few minutes while Hosea called the church to tell them that Angela had arrived. While Angela was waiting for Hosea to return, she was suddenly swarmed on by three teen-age girls, two blacks and one white. The girls had an Instamatic, and begged Angela to pose with them for a picture. Smiling for them each time with the same slightly shy authenticity, she posed with her arms around them like a big sister, as if she was proud to be in every picture. Using the back of one of the girls for an arm-rest. She wrote each girl a warm personal autograph: "With Love, to Cindy, Angel Y. Davis... To Karen in the struggle. Angela Y. Davis."

SEVERAL WEEKS ago in Boston, she sit in the campaign headquarters at Edward Teixeira, chain-smooking Kools and said: "I don't see myself as an individual who is somehow different from the masses of people who struggled for my freedom... It was kind of an accident that things happened the way they did. It could have been someone else... I always saw my role in the struggle to be that of a different kind of worker. But now that she responsibility has been thrust upon me. I'm going to do the best I can to try to live up to it."

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