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Afro Images: Politics, Fashion, and Nostalgia

by Angela Y. Davis

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“Not long ago, I attended a performance in San Francisco by women presently or formerly incarcerated in the county jail in collaboration with Bay Area women performance artists. After the show, I went backstage to the “green room,” where the women inmates, guarded by deputy sheriffs stationed outside the door, were celebrating with their families and friends. Having worked with some of the women at the jail, I wanted to congratulate them on the show. One woman introduced me to her brother who at first responded to my name with a blank stare. The woman admonished him: “You don’t know who Angela Davis is?! You should be ashamed.” Suddenly, a flicker of recognition flashed across his face. “Oh,” he said, “Angela Davis—the Afro.”

Such responses I find are hardly exceptional, and it is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo.”

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