Marxist Angela Davis Calls on Students at Pricey California School to 'Dismantle Capitalism'

Fall of capitalism will achieve progressive values, Davis tells kindergartners

Angela Davis
Angela Davis / Getty Images
April 1, 2021

Headlining a diversity and inclusion webinar hosted by an elite California K-12 preparatory school on Wednesday, Marxist Angela Davis called on students at the $47,300 a year prep school to "dismantle capitalism."

Davis, a militant black power activist and former Communist Party member, headlined the final session of the Head-Royce School's 2021 CommunityEd series.

"Ultimately I think we're going to have to dismantle capitalism if we really want to move in a progressive direction, if we want our children and children's children and their children to begin to move along a trajectory that is described by freedom," she said.

Davis has long been accused of anti-Semitism, beginning with her support for the Soviet Union's oppression of Jewish dissidents. She also backs the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

Head-Royce spokeswoman Jennifer Beeson told the Washington Free Beacon that the school considered Davis's record before inviting her to speak, but ultimately felt that the lecture would be a good venue for students "to focus on her activism."

"There's kind of a complex and layered history that she has," Beeson said. "We viewed this as a teachable moment for students interested in activism, which is a core to being in our community." 

Davis landed on the FBI's most wanted list for her involvement in an attempted courtroom takeover in 1970. Guns she purchased were used in a plot to free three murder suspects from the Marin County Civic Center in California, which left four people dead. Davis spent 18 months in jail and faced three felony charges for providing the weapons used in the attack, but was acquitted in 1972. 

Davis went on to receive the Soviet Union's International Lenin Peace Prize in 1979 and praised "glorious" dictator Vladimir Lenin and his "great" Bolshevik Revolution, which ushered in a century of communism and left an estimated 100 million people dead.

At Wednesday's event, Davis spoke on subjects ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to the Black Lives Matter movement. She urged students to develop an international focus and "struggle against" the notion that the United States is the best country in the world. 

"Of course it's the United States that claims to represent America, and I think that we have to struggle against this notion that this is the best country in the world, that we are always the ones to give leadership even when we're talking about social justice struggles," she said. "We have to take internationalism into consideration." 

She also blamed American businesses for making life "unlivable" for immigrants in their home countries, driving them to seek shelter in the United States and subsequently imprisoning them. 

"The detention of immigrants is the most profitable sector of the private prison industry and this is much connected to struggles against the prison industrial complex," Davis said. "And the fact that we have mass incarceration driven by racism is a product of capitalism."   

Davis ensured students that she was aware of the carbon footprint she's left on the world through her extensive traveling through the Soviet bloc and beyond. That footprint, Davis told the students, is entangled in the "heteropatriarchy."

"This is the first time I have not been on a plane for an entire year since I was a young child. I also have to say parenthetically that my carbon footprint isn't what it should be, and I'm aware of that," Davis said. "I'm aware of the connections of struggles against climate change, for environmental justice, our struggles against racism and heteropatriarchy and capitalist exploitation." 

Decades of activism, Davis told students, taught her that there are always new social justice battles to fight, including the fight for black transgender women, a community that is "subject to more forms of violence" than any other, Davis said. 

"We think of freedom as an endpoint. But I don't think there is an endpoint. Freedom is an infinite struggle. There's always more work to do," Davis said.

More than 1,000 Head-Royce students and community members viewed the webinar, according to Head of School Crystal Land. Head-Royce director of diversity and inclusion Johara Tucker moderated the discussion. 

Tuition at Head-Royce starts at $33,100 for kindergarten through fifth grade. Head-Royce charges $37,200 for middle school and $47,300 for high school.

Davis frequently speaks at colleges and universities across the United States. Yale University selected Davis to speak at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event last year. Butler University this week canceled an event where the controversial figure was expected to speak after facing pressure from Jewish students.