Angela Davis’ papers acquired by Harvard’s Schlesinger Library

Angela Davis
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Angela Davis’ papers acquired by Harvard’s Schlesinger Library

By Ryan Velez

Angela Davis is one of the great names in both counter-culture activism and feminism, and Good Black News reports that her life will now be memorialized at Harvard University, which recently acquired a treasure trove of her documents, letters, papers, photos.

The items will be in Radcliffe College’s Schlesinger Library, having been secured with support from Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African & African American Research. The collection of images and papers chronicle Davis’ growth as an educator, activist, scholar, and author. “My papers reflect 50 years of involvement in activist and scholarly collaborations seeking to expand the reach of justice in the world,” Davis said in a statement. “I am very happy that at the Schlesinger Library they will join those of June Jordan, Patricia Williams, Pat Parker, and so many other women who have been advocates of social transformation.”

Jane Kamensky, Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation Director of the Schlesinger Library, has high hopes for the collection and its impact, including yielding “prize-winning books for decades as people reckon with this legacy and put [Davis] in conversation with other collections here and else-where.” She adds that the goal of the library is to seek out collections “that will change the way that fields know what they know.”

Highlights of the collection include a painting done for Davis by a California death-row inmate, as well as a manuscript of her autobiography, complete with edits by author and Davis’s Toni Morrison.  The collection will also feature many photos of Davis’ younger days, including a shot of her posing with Fidel Castro. Also, part of the archive will be reels of her radio show, “Angela Speaks,” along with material related to her 1970 arrest.

Kamensky understands the controversial figure Davis still casts to some, but thinks her life is still of essential value, representing the radical mind-set where “people with big ideas move the conversation by drawing fire. And she has taken that role as a lightning-rod thinker from a really tender age.” By pursuing her papers Schlesinger is not asking the researchers to agree with her,” added Kamensky. “Archives do not prescribe a party line … [but] to tell histories true we need to see a full spectrum.”


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