October 13, 1970-Angela Davis is arrested in New York City and extradited to Marin County, California, where she is charged with conspiracy to commit murder. The charge stems from the death of Judge Harold Haley, taken hostage by Jonathan Jackson and accomplices in an effort to free the Soledad brothers and all political prisoners from United States federal prisons. Davis’ arrest and trial became a focal point in the struggle against an unjust and discriminatory judicial system in which the privileged often found themselves defenseless in frivolous trials resulting in equally absurd prison sentences.
Bettina Aptheker, close friend and supporter of Davis, penned her recollections of the trial and the hurdles and obstacles in the way of Davis’ path to exoneration. Set in Palo Alto, California, a stronghold of conservative political views, the defense became embattled in a David and Goliath struggle against a prosecution bent on Davis’ imprisonment. There are many highs and lows in the trial, but the shining moments are the selected readings of Davis’ letters to George Jackson, at the time incarcerated at San Quentin. Davis and Jackson had become deeply involved with each other and Davis’ confession of love are moving and revealing.
The book isn’t always an easy read, there are parts where the ugliest side of human actions are shown. Racism, sexism and political suppression are shown unrestricted for the reader to digest. Her standing as a professor, civil rights activist and communist thrust her into the spotlight and her trial was one of the most important in the history of this nation. Her acquittal would force America to re-examine itself and the concept of justice. All of the negative aspects of society are brought to the surface bringing the past to life. The very pitfalls common in that time period, while tragic, are also the same pitfalls that do make this nation great. Our ability to constantly examine and self-criticize are the tools of any great democracy. Our constitution says that all men are created equal, but for hundreds of years, minorities, women, the disabled, LGTB and many others of society have struggled in their cause for equality. Angela’s story reminds us that while it may seem difficult, justice can and does prevail.