Angela Davis on why she’s a communist (1972)

Oct 5, 2018

Angela Davis: And they all ask one main question, which is, “Why is Angela Davis a communist?” It is a very hard question to answer, mainly because I don’t feel I’ve been taught the true meaning of communism. This is one of my reasons for writing you at the time.

Rev. Cecil Williams: Hold it right there. Why is Angela Davis a communist?

Angela Davis: Actually, I think I answered that before when we were talking about what a revolutionary is.

Rev. Cecil Williams: Many times with the term communist, because I think it’s been used by so many different aspects of our society to put down, rather than to let people try to understand. Everybody shuns away from it. It’s like it’s a disease or something like that.

I just, what I’m trying to get through is that the brother here, in that letter, is raising a question, and, therefore, in his question, it seems that he’s trying to say that there are some people who are plagued by that, and they let that get in the way. They don’t want to know Angela Davis as a person. Even if they do, that prevents them from coming to know Angela Davis as a person.

Angela Davis: Well, you see, now, that might be true for, say, the vast majority of white people. But one of the things which really impressed me, when I was on the streets and fighting for my job at UCLA, was that whenever I spoke to Black people, and whenever I spoke to the Black community very few people had hang-ups about communism. I can remember many times walking down the street and having someone stop me and say, “Are you Angela Davis?” and I would say yes, and they would express their solidarity, and say, well, all the sisters and brothers would say even though, I don’t really know what communism is all about, just as the brother here said, then we know that there must be something good about it because otherwise the man wouldn’t be coming down on you so hard.

So I think that the resistance to understanding what communism is all about doesn’t exist nearly as much in the Black community as it does in the country as a whole. This letter here is an indication of that. What he is saying is that although he realizes that this country has kept away from him and many of our sisters and brothers the knowledge of what communism is, he wants to know about it. And I’m sure that that’s, when he says that that’s one of the main questions that’s asked.

I doubt whether there’s a, in the Black community at least, whether there’s huge contours of hostility. It’s just a desire, curiosity to know.

What I generally say, and I answered the brother and tried to explain in a few words why I was a communist, and I said, essentially, the same thing that I said when I told you why I was a revolutionary. Because I have a very strong love for oppressed people, for my people. I want to see them free, and I want to see all oppressed people throughout the world free. And I realize that the only way that we can do this is by moving towards a revolutionary society where the needs, and the interests, and the wishes of all people can be respected.

Thanks to AfroMarxist for archiving these videos. Transcription by Jonathan Ebhogiaye.