Angela Davis on the power of protest: ‘We can’t do anything without optimism’

1960s: Days of Rage

“The last time Angela Davis was in Birmingham, Alabama, she caught up with childhood friends and her Sunday school teacher. While many of us would reminisce about favourite classes and first kisses, they discussed bombs. ‘We talked about what it was like to grow up in a city where there were bombings all the time,’ she says. Most notoriously, in September 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist church, killing four girls. It wasn’t a one-off, says the legendary radical feminist, communist and former Black Panther. ‘People’s homes were bombed, synagogues were bombed, other churches were bombed. People think of that as a single event, but it was more indicative of the pervasive terror at that time in Birmingham.’ When the girls were killed, Davis was 19, a brilliant young scholar travelling through Europe. She read about the attack in newspapers. ‘It was one of the…

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