Harvard Library Acquires Angela Davis’ Archives

By Sameer Rao Feb 14, 2018

Nearly seven decades worth of papers, photographs and other archival material from Angela Davis just found a permanent home at Harvard University.

The New York Times reported yesterday (February 13) that the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study acquired more than 150 boxes of material from the veteran activist and scholar for an undisclosed sum. The archives span the entirety of Davis’ life, with most of the material coming from the height of her public visibility as an activist in the ’70s. The Times notes that an FBI "Wanted" poster, which circulated while Davis was evading arrest for murder and kidnapping charges, features in the collection. 

Davis was arrested in 1970 for those charges, which stemmed from guns that she purchased being used in a failed attempt to liberate the Soledad Brothers, three incarcerated Black men accused of murdering a White guard at Soledad State Prison. Her subsequent trial inspired the worldwide "Free Angela" campaign for her acquittal, which she won in 1972. The collection also includes many “Free Angela" banners and letters from supporters, as well as a diary that she kept during the trial. The materials also include an original manuscript of "Angela Davis: An Autobiography," with handwritten comments from editor Toni Morrison

Davis told The Times that she accepted an acquisition offer from the library, which specializes in the archives of famous U.S. women, because it houses papers from friends like poet June Jordan. “As a scholar and activist, I’ve always worked with others,” she said. “I have so much respect for many of the women who have chosen to put their papers here.”