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Top 20 US Progressives: Angela Davis

Activist, Occupy movement visitor.

A Black Power icon of the 1960s whose face still adorns the T-shirts of militant protesters, Angela Davis has been at the forefront of radical struggle in the US for more than four decades.

She became an international cause célèbre when she was charged with conspiracy to murder, after it was discovered that the gun used by a young African American during a 1970 raid on a Marin County courthouse, in which four men died, was registered in her name.

Support came from Aretha Franklin, who offered to post bail of a quarter of a million dollars, and from hundreds of local committees. Davis was acquitted of all charges by an all-white jury in June 1972.

Convinced that only under socialism could the fight against racism be executed successfully, she ran for vice-president on the Communist Party USA ticket in 1980 and 1984. Now aged 67, she remains a leading campaigner against the death penalty and what she has termed the "prison-industrial complex", and regularly addresses Occupy camps.

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This article first appeared in the 09 January 2012 issue of the New Statesman, Forget Obama