Home » Angela Davis’ 1972 Trial: Dramatized

Some things people expect in a period piece about Black people. The portrayal of traditional racism in the civil rights movement, slavery in the south, Jim Crow laws, and segregation. Others, like the imprisonment of activist Angela Davis, are topics glossed over at best; forgotten at worst.

After doing a bit of research on the historical figure of Angela Davis, it became clear why she isn’t talked about in history classrooms in K-12 schools. Because the issue is fraught with opposing views stemming from somewhat outdated Cold War politics, many people would rather ignore the discussion. At the very least they dismiss it outright as not worth it or dangerous to the (white) population.

Prison Reform and Melodrama for Angela Davis

Davis’ role in prison reform is something that should’ve upset the pond to where the ripples’ effects led to actual change. Aside from California getting rid of the death penalty in 1972, not much has changed in terms of prison reform. Most notably the bail system. Something the writer Yhane Washington Smith points out at the end of each episode in this seven-part series.

While the message is clear and articulated well for the most part in the opening and closing credits, the story runs from cringe to eye-rolling in terms of the performances. It’s a bit too over the top and begs whether Smith rushed the production to coincide with the anniversary of Davis’s acquittal. Smith’s other period piece “Harlem Queen” is leagues above some actors’ voice acting and mic quality. At least starting in season 2 of that show.

Angela Davis and Shirley Chisholm: Black Fighters in a Post-Civil Rights World

Part of the problem with doing anything closer to the twenty-first century or more recent historical events is making a character seem like a monolith in their ideas. People are complicated. I’d be shocked if Angela Davis or former Congresswoman Chisholm talked that way all the time. The story does have moments with the politics dialed down. The scene in prison between Angela Davis and George Jackson is set at a nice clip but ends the conversation with a political mantra that feels more like the writer using big words that don’t feel natural to say. You can even hear the actress begin to run out of breath because there’s so much being said in one sentence.

Studying Angela Davis: Doing Your Homework Before Dinner

Normally, I let a historical fiction story dictate whether I dig deeper into the time, place, or person in question. Knowing about the events as they happened helped the enjoyment immensely. They were like easter eggs, but for history. I wish I did this before starting this mini-series about 1970s civil rights activists. It still didn’t make some of the dialogue work.

7.5/10- Stars

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