Feminism and Revolution: Angela Davis in Cuba

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 10:30 AM
Liberty Suite 5 (Sheraton New York)
Sarah Seidman, Museum of the City of New York
My paper explores the routes of transnational black feminism between the United States and Cuba in the 1960s and 1970s. Specifically, I will examine the experiences of the activist-intellectual Angela Davis in Castro’s Cuba from the late 1960s to the mid 1970s. Using disciplinary approaches from History, Visual Culture Studies, and Women’s Studies, I argue that Davis’s gender was a pivotal factor in shaping her experiences in Cuba and her reception in Cuban culture.

This paper will examine Davis’s visits to Cuba in the late 1960s to mid-1970s. Davis first visited the island in 1969 with a delegation of the Communist Party of the United States, returned in 1972 as part of an international speaking tour after her acquittal for murder and conspiracy and release from prison, and in 1974 to attend the Second Congress of the Federation of Cuban Women. I show how Davis’s gender impacted her experience and reception on the island. Her status as a woman connected Davis with the Federation of Cuban Women, which provided an institutional platform for Davis to be extolled and which made Davis into an icon in Cuban culture. Yet Davis was both impressed and disappointed with the position of Cuban women after the Revolution. While Cuba provided Davis with a tangible connection between socialist revolution and women’s emancipation, continued gender inequality illuminated challenges to the Revolution’s stated goals and the work of transnational feminist activists.

As part of a larger project that explores the convergences between African American activists and the Cuban Revolution from 1959 to 1979, Davis’s gendered encounters with Cuba are pivotal to understanding African American and Cuban connections. In addition, examining the nature of Davis’s experience and reception in Cuba sheds light on her gender-based activism in the United States and her influence on transnational radical feminist politics.

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