“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change.
I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
October 25, 2021 LGBTQ Nation
Angela Davis was interviewed by CSPAN2 on the Civil Rights movement and LGBT rights in 2004.
“You have to act as if it were possible to radically transform the world. And you have to do it all the time.” So said Angela Davis, 78, America’s most famous living revolutionary. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama, one of the most incendiary of the racist Jim Crow southern cities, in a neighborhood called “Dynamite Hill,” due to attacks on Black people by their white neighbors. Davis would rise to become an international beacon of anti-racist and feminist radicalism over decades, expanding her vision to include LGBTQ civil rights, Palestinian rights and her life’s work against America’s carceral system.
A radical political activist and theorist, Davis gained fame in the 1960s and 1970s as a leader in the civil rights, Black Power and Black and feminist liberation movements. Pivoting off the Serenity prayer, Davis’s most famous quote is the one that threads through all her activism: “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”
Davis continues to do that work now, 60 years after enrolling at Brandeis University as one of only three Black students. After graduating from Brandeis, Davis studied with Frankfurt school philosopher Herbert Marcuse in Berlin. In a 2007 television interview, Davis said, “Herbert Marcuse taught me that it was possible to be an academic, an activist, a scholar and a revolutionary.”
Davis was and is all those things. In 1969, while a professor in the philosophy department at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and already a world-renowned activist, Davis was fired for being a Communist and for her “inflammatory language.” Davis was also a member of the Los Angeles chapter of the Black Panthers at that time and identified as a radical feminist. Her firing was both urged and lauded by then Gov. Ronald Reagan, despite national support for her. UCLA’s Board of Regents was censured by the American Association of University Professors for firing Davis.
The following year, Davis was listed among the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted, the first Black woman to be on the FBI’s fugitives list, personally chosen by J. Edgar Hoover. The listing and subsequent manhunt came after guns Davis had purchased were used in an August 1970 shooting at the Marin County courthouse in California related to the Soledad Brothers, whom she supported as political prisoners.
FBI Wanted poster for Angela Davis
Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture