Angela Davis and the freedom of france


Angela Davis first arrived in Paris in the summer of 1962. She lived with two other American women in a chambre de bonne, six flights up, with a skylight view of the elevators ferrying tourists up and down the Eiffel Tower. The following summer Davis returned to Paris on a formal, yearlong academic program. It was the golden age of study abroad that began in the aftermath of World War II and continued for three decades, sending thousands of American students into French homes and universities. There’s barely a book or article about Angela Davis that doesn’t mention that she majored in French and studied at the Sorbonne. But that period of education and adventure is always overshadowed by the dramas to come: Davis’s association with the Black Panthers; her dismissal from UCLA’s faculty in 1969 for being a member of the Communist Party; her appearance in 1970 on the FBI’s list of ten most wanted fugitives; her acquittal in the kidnapping and murder of a California judge; her research on the prison-industrial complex. Yet a phenomenon as powerful and versatile as the American romance with France has played a vital role in Davis’s story, as it has for women as radically different as Jacqueline Bouvier and Susan Sontag. All three were transformed by studying in France in such a way that they would, in turn, transform the cultural and political life of the United States.

more from Alice Kaplan at The Nation here.