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The Morning Breaks

The Morning Breaks: The Trial of Angela Davis

Bettina Aptheker
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: 2
Published by: Cornell University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Morning Breaks
    Book Description:

    On August 7, 1970, a revolt by Black prisoners in a Marin County courthouse stunned the nation. In its aftermath, Angela Davis, an African American activist-scholar who had campaigned vigorously for prisoners' rights, was placed on the FBI's "ten most wanted list." Captured in New York City two months later, she was charged with murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. Her trial, chronicled in this "compelling tale" (Publishers Weekly), brought strong public indictment. The Morning Breaks is a riveting firsthand account of Davis's ordeal and her ultimate triumph, written by an activist in the student, civil rights, and antiwar movements who was intimately involved in the struggle for her release.

    First published in 1975, and praised by The Nation for its "graphic narrative of [Davis's] legal and public fight," The Morning Breaks remains relevant today as the nation contends with the political fallout of the Sixties and the grim consequences of institutional racism. For this edition, Bettina Aptheker has provided an introduction that revisits crucial events of the late 1960s and early 1970s and puts Davis's case into the context of that time and our own-from the killings at Kent State and Jackson State to the politics of the prison system today. This book gives a first-hand account of the worldwide movement for Angela Davis's freedom and of her trial. It offers a unique historical perspective on the case and its continuing significance in the contemporary political landscape.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-7014-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xxii)
    Bettina Aptheker

    Angela Davis was brought to trial in 1972 in San Jose, California, on charges of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy. Davis, placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wan ted” list and designated “armed and dangerous,” had been arrested in New York City on October 13, 1970. President Richard M. Nixon congratulated the FBI on its “capture of the dangerous terrorist, Angela Davis,” a sentiment echoed by Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, and by an editorial in theNew York Times(October 16, 1970). Images of a handcuffed Davis appeared on the covers ofNewsweekand other leading journals. News media...

    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
    (pp. 1-26)

    Margaret Burnham and I grew up together in Brooklyn, New York. We went to different high schools, but we saw each other on various week-ends and holidays. Margaret was a fine musician. She played the violin. She went to a special high school in Manhattan called Music & Art. We spent several summers at the same children’s camp in Vermont. Our parents were good friends.

    We were about fifteen years old when we got together with a few other young people, including Margaret’s best friend, Angela Davis, and formed a socialist club calledAdvance. Angela was from Birmingham, Alabama. She...

    (pp. 27-156)

    The morning after Angela Davis’ arrest in New York City, Franklin Alexander, the chairman of the Che-Lumumba Club of the Communist Party, held a press conference in Los Angeles, California.

    Franklin said: “The Che Lumumba Club of the Communist Party of Southern California, is the organizational choice of Angela Davis and the collective to which she belongs. We are completely and without reservation committed to lead in building the largest, broadest, most all encompassing movement this country has ever seen to free our comrade . . . The hounds have captured her physically and made her a political prisoner. With...

  8. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
    (pp. 157-276)

    Two days after her release on bail Angela went to San Francisco to attend the trial of the two surviving Soledad Brothers, John Clutchette and Fleeta Drumgo. The trial was in its seventeenth week. John and Fleeta had not seen Angela since July when they had all met in the men’s mess hall at the Marin County jail and George was still alive.

    Outside, word spread that Angela was at the trial. By noon a crowd of several hundred people had gathered on the steps of the Hall of Justice. On the day her trial opened-Monday, February 28th-in chambers, prosecutor...

    (pp. 277-284)

    Ruchell Magee, the sole surviving prisoner of the August 7th events, was tried for first degree murder and aggravated kidnapping in San Francisco.

    The trial began on November 27th, 1972. The presiding judge was Morton Colvin. The defense counsel was Robert Carrow, court-appointed and serving over Magee’s continued objections. Ruchell wanted to represent himself. The prosecutor was Albert Harris.

    Harris had to change his theory of the crime again because in order to prove aggravated kidnapping he had to prove that hostages had been taken for purposes of extortion.

    In Angela’s trial the extortion plot was supposed to have been...

    (pp. 285-294)

    In June 1973, I went to see Ruchell Magee at the San Jose jail. He was dressed in an all-white prison uniform. His feet were shackled, and the chains ran up under his crotch and around his waist. One hand was chained to his waist; the other was free. Ruchell was of small stature. I found him soft-spoken. He was also sorrowful, desperately frustrated, cynical, and given to expressions of paranoia. These things seemed to me consistent with the conditions under which he existed. I spent much of the summer working on his case, and I continued to see Ruchell...