The 51 Most Memorable Angela Davis Quotes

Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama on January 26, 1944. At an early age she became active in the Black Panthers and the Communist party. She has dedicated her life to the pursuit of racial justice and has worked as an educator and activist, as a feminist who has fought hard to the rights of prisoners. She made it her life’s work to seek justice for people who were treated unfairly in the justice system.

Angela Davis helped champion the cause of black prisoners in the 1960s and 1970’s. She became attached to a young revolutionary named George Jackson who was one of the “Soledad Brothers.” In August of 1970, the brother of George Jackson (Jonathan Jackson) was among four people that were killed in an attempted escape from the Hall of Justice in Marin county. Davis was suspected of being complicit and became one of the FBI’s most wanted criminals. After being arrested in New York, in October of 1970 she was returned to California to face charges of kidnapping, murder and conspiracy. She was then acquitted of all charges – by an all white jury.

She published her autobiography in 1974 and in 1980 she ran for U.S. Vice President on the communist party ticket. She has been a prolific author. Among her most popular books are: Angela Davis: An Autobiography, Women, Race and Class, Women, Culture and Politics, and Are Prisons Obsolete?

We gathered the best quotes to capture some of the infamous things she has said about the justice system, inequality, and society in general.

Angela Davis Quotes

1. “The code for black people. We should never take what isn’t ours. Never kill each other. Never sell narcotics to each other. Save your money and spend it wisely. We should always protect each other especially females and kids. People should teach each other so we can all learn from one another. Never attack each other with your hands or anything else. People should look out for each other. Men should look out for women and women should look out for men. Always look for ways to improve your quality of life for yourself and others.”

2. “Incarceration is made to tear people down, to turn people from humans into animals, and to make us bow down to our masters and turn against each other.”

3. “I won’t tolerate things I can’t change. I am going to change the things I can’t tolerate.”

4. “Heterosexual African American males and Caucasian women will always suffer the same struggles because they are equating their success to the success of Caucasian men. Caucasian men base their success on the struggles of others.”

5. “When black women succeed, it’s a win for everyone.”

6. “ If there’s a chance that I can leave this prison, I am not free until my people are free as well.”

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7. ‘We owe a huge debt to those who suffered before us in order for us to be where we are today.”

8. “When schools are more focused on discipline instead of education, they are preparing for students to end up in prison.”

9. “The role of the police is to protect and serve all people. Their real focus is to protect and serve the people who only care about injustice. The police only want to intimidate African Americans. They want to threaten them with violence and assume we are weak and helpless. They arrest people too quickly without justification. They surround the community with violence and cause anarchy among the African American society.”

10. “Our society doesn’t need violence. We need to get rid of the military and take away guns from the police.”

11. “It’s important to do good work and give back to your community. It’s better to work with others to achieve your goal instead of doing it by yourself.”

12. “You have to believe that you can change society. You have to do it all of the time and not just once in a while.”

13. “If they are after me, trust and believe that they will be after you too.”

14. “The memories of slavery are instilled in us. People feel that remembering slavery means that you would be too focused on it. In the minds of black people, it’s better to think of ourselves as children of royalty than as slaves. It’s possible that some black people come from royalty, but most of us are actually related to the peasants of royalty.”

15. “Freeing our minds is just as important as freeing ourselves from our situations.”

16. “If you want to understand how the world works, start with learning the difference between men and women.”

17. “The idea of freedom is great but what good does it do you if you are starving? What does your freedom actually mean at that point?’

18. “Captivity keeps people from having to deal with the problems of the world. Racism and capitalism are big problems in the world that people in prison don’t have to face the way we do.”

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19. “African American women have a keener sense of what’s going on in the world than any other nationality. They have to tolerate all races and genders as well as their own. When an African American woman is victorious, it’s a victory for everyone.”

20. “Racism and capitalism go hand and hand.”

21. “Any protest that seeks equality and justice must include these things for women or it will be a step backwards instead of a step in the right direction.”

22. “This country doesn’t need politicians in office.”

23. “The problem we are dealing with is the growing amount of minorities being forced to work in certain situations as well as the growing number of people getting arrested.”

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24. “Things have changed in the workforce over the years. There are more minorities getting more leadership positions than they were years ago.”

25. “The difference in politics today is there’s no connection between African Americans with money and poor African Americans.”

26. “There has been change over the years. There’s no more segregation in our society.”

27. “Some people may be able to hide their racism while some are out in the open with it. There may be change as far as racism is concerned, but racism still exists now more than ever before.”

28. “Racism is a way for rich people to make money by having black people work for less money.”

29. “Don’t get too comfortable with the way things are now. It’s important to keep striving for change. You can’t assume you can live your life the same way you have been without any change at all.”

30. “The death penalty would no longer exist if it weren’t for slavery. Slavery is another term for the death penalty.”

31. “According to polls, poor people as well as minorities are destined to be in prison instead of in college.”

32. “In a prejudiced world, it’s better to be anti-racist than non racist.”

33. “When former President Obama was president, someone said, “one African American man as president doesn’t change the fact that other African American men are in prison.”

34. “Jails don’t take away the problems, they take away peoples’ spirits. The problems in society continue to exist even though the people are in jail. The problems are just hidden from the world as long as they are locked up.”

35. “It’s important to talk about important things instead of being out in the public saying nothing.”

36. “It’s important to remain optimistic regardless of the situation you are facing.”

37. “If we don’t continue to make strides in ending racism, it will never be abolished.”

38. “Prisons are ways to avoid dealing with problems in our society. It’s better for them to lock people up instead of dealing with the situation.”

39. “If people can’t find ways to talk about racism in our society, it will continue to increase.”

40. “It’s better not to rely on who’s in charge of the country to solve our problems. It’s better to rely on ourselves to get things done.”

41. “When you think about social injustice, it will be a waste of time if you don’t think about the people who are suffering the same struggles as you.”

42. “If African Americans were willing to accept being less than others, the mafia would have ended. Since African Americans didn’t want to give up their dreams, thousands of people died.”

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43. “If everyone’s lives mattered, we wouldn’t have to say black lives matter. All black lives matter regardless of gender, sexual orientation, and religion as well as other types of African American people. Once that is established, then we can honestly say all lives matter.”

44. “Men who don’t follow the rules are considered criminals while women who don’t follow the rules are considered crazy.”

45. “We don’t think about the food we eat and what has to be done to it in order for us to eat our meals.”

46. “Women suffer from different forms of punishment. Women have been sentenced to mental institutions more than they have to prison. Women are more likely to end up in mental hospitals than men. Prisons have mostly been for men while mental institutions have been for women.”

47. “A criminal is no longer just a bad person. It’s someone who is expected to own up to their responsibility and pay the price for their crime.”

48. “We have to work together especially in a society that expects us to tear each other down. Working together is the best way to instill hope and optimism among our people.”

49. “People should always bring people up with them as they climb the ladder of success.”

50. “We live in a world where people expect you to forget the things that have happened in the past.”

51. “It’s a shock when someone asks about violence in this country. It’s a tell that the people asking aren’t familiar with what minorities have gone through at the hands of slave owners as well as other racist individuals.”

These quotes stand the test of time. They are relevant in today’s society. There are a lot of bad things going on in the justice system today so her quotes are timeless. They are just as powerful today as they were when she first said them years ago. These quotes are helpful for people who aren’t familiar with the activist or want to reread what she said years ago.


Angela Davis Video – on Violence and Revolution

In this video which appears to be from the 1970’s she is answering questions about violence and revolution. She discuses her principles and goals behind the approach to revolution.

Image Credit: The Angela Davis Legal Defense Fund / Public domain

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