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The Meaning of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  592 ratings  ·  56 reviews
What is the meaning of freedom? Angela Y. Davis' life and work have been dedicated to examining this fundamental question and to ending all forms of oppression that deny people their political, cultural, and sexual freedom. In this collection of twelve searing, previously unpublished speeches, Davis confronts the interconnected issues of power, race, gender, class, incarce ...more
Paperback, 202 pages
Published August 14th 2012 by City Lights Publishers (first published October 1st 2009)
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Jun 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Racism, classism, ageism, sexism, activism, homophobia, racial profiling, rehabilitation vs. punishment, big business prison systems - this book covers it all! The stories were written many years ago, yet they remain relevant in this year 2015. This book forces one to think about how each race, every person is touched by the aforementioned. A great read.
Mar 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible...astute...everyone should read this.
Maggie Ayau
A collection of speeches by Angela Davis from the early 90s to late 00s. As someone very new to abolition theory, I was surprised at how relevant her teachings are even 10-20+ years later. Many of the things she warns us will happen if abolition is not achieved are being played out in our current reality: she was, and is, truly ahead of her time. I also haven’t read many of her writings, so this felt like a good “sampler” of sorts—would definitely recommend for folks wanting to become more famil ...more
rosa guac
Mar 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
fuck me up angela davis 😭💗✌️
There hasn’t been a more apt time to read these collection of essays. Davis goes into the necessity of abolition, the absolute imperative nature of community building, the ever changing yet necessary understanding of feminism, and the true meaning of freedom.
Kaleb Rogers
Apr 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The most apparent takeaway from The Meaning of Freedom is Angela Davis' earned status as a Civil Rights authority and icon. This collection of lectures is also retrospectively prophetic, as they show Davis as describing the economic exploitation of Neoliberalism through vehicles like the IMF (well before Naomi Klein tackled the topic), the robbing of freedom and basic civil liberties through the 13th amendment (well before the documentary '13th' and the book 'The New Jim Crow'), and the fraudule ...more
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Davis goes a long way in giving the tools of language, points of reference, an actually applicable paradigm. Instead if a sea of confusion, as social justice works can often leave you with, she gives the reader tools for dialogue. The title is perfect.
Stephan Willow
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
It’s been a while since I’ve read a book like The Meaning of Freedom. There is a fair bit of repetition of core concepts, but that is due to the nature of the book and not a fault of the author. As a collection of speeches covering similar ground it is valid that she centers on the core ideas and then covers new territory with each speech.
“What is freedom?” Is covered from a variety of angles/lenses along with how that meaning has undergone transformation, both intentionally and as an indirect
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A collection of speeches and lectures, this book covers every corner of Davis’s deep reflection on what it means to be free. I found it particularly enlightening, in speeches from the early 2000s, where she discusses prisons/racism and the aftermath of 9/11–something I remember of course, but never truly grasped the reverberations. She also draws deep attention to society’s “messiah complex”. Ya just gotta read it. Just go read it immediately.
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
While there is a bit of repetition throughout this book, these speeches/essays are all fantastic. Angela Davis conveys a slew of powerful ideas and arguments that all revolve around the general concept of what holds us back from achieving true freedom for ALL Americans. She tackles racism, sexism, the prison industrial complex, xenophobia, and more, and she does it all in an intriguing and captivating manner.
Mitchell Atencio
May 06, 2020 rated it liked it
The content itself is incredible. Especially with each chapter in chronological order, you really get to listen as Davis and her teachings/analysis develop. The one flaw is that from each chapter to the next, 30-60 percent of the material is the same or similar. Still an amazing book that all should read and consider and come back to
Listened to “The Meaning of Freedom” speech on audio 7/21/20
Sep 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
The title truly captures the essence of the essays included, The Meaning Of Freedom: And Other Difficult Dialogues. Dr. Davis reminds us about the prison-industrial-complex, which is a form of punishment, punishment which imprisons predominately poor people of color. She emphatically reminds us that those who go to prison are striped of their rights such as rights of disfranchisement. The underlying cause of the prison-industrial-complex is capitalism and racism which have become institutionaliz ...more
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Angela Y. Davis is such an amazing intellectual, theorist, thinker, feminist, and human being. I love reading her scholarly output for its rigor and reimagining of old ideas, and I also love her speeches fo their ability to be engaging and thought-provoking and challenging and accessible. I devoured this book. Some of it is repeated from other books, but there is no diminishing the message, and some things seemingly need a lot of repetition to sink in... Most of my notes ae just thinking points ...more
Liz Murray
Mar 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was fortunate to hear Angela Davis speak in Oakland last year. She is a passionate and awe inspiring person who has stayed true to her beliefs. This book is a collection of speeches she gave between 2000 and 2010 (or thereabouts). While she covers similar ground in each speech it is articulated differently each time. Age has not diminished her fire nor her intelligence, and I would go far out of my way to hear her speak again. While I wait for that to happen, I have her words here that will co ...more
B Sarv
Jan 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Prof. Davis never disappoints. Anyone who is truly interested in opening their mind to realities of activism, social justice and change must read Angela Davis. Within the past year I have had the opportunity to learn from James Baldwin, bell hooks and Angela Y. Davis. This book was a perfect fit in the stream of learning for me. Reading this book was like attending her lectures in person. She narrates and teaches and passionately makes her knowledge and experiences available to all in this book.
Andrew MacKie-Mason
This is the second Angela Davis book I've read. I can't wait to read the rest. She has a gift for stating powerful insights about race, class, gender, sexual orientation, citizenship, and most of all crime, punishment, and incarceration, in language that grabs you and forces you to pay attention. This book was particularly interesting because it's structure—a chronological collection of speeches—allowed you to see the same themes recur and develop. ...more
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
For those unaware, many of these speeches are related to each other in topic and so you will bump into redundancies if you read it as you would a fiction novel. I, personally, would recommend this to be read over time or in pieces to elimante reading fatigue and to allow yourself to really grasp what is being said.
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: critical-theory
would have been four stars, but city lights really botched this one. so many copy editing problems throughout the book including repeated paragraphs, random paragraph breaks, quotation marks repeated at random, etc. davis is brilliant as always. very accessible for non-academic readers.
Jul 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
Arguments in the language of academia; I don't have enough patience to read this book. ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Rereading this book I did like it more. For the most part I agree with her messages in the book, but I would have liked if the foreword was more biographical
Apr 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“Whatever we are doing, wherever we are, it is imperative that we believe in the possibility of change. We cannot allow ourselves to be ensconced in the present, so the very first step is to actively imagine possible futures—futures beyond the prison and beyond capitalism.” (83)

Okay, disclaimer: I did not finish every essay in this book. Nevertheless, this compendium of Davis’s talks and lectures had a profound effect on me: I learned so much about the global rise of the prison industrial comple
S. Suresh
The Meaning of Freedom is a collection of 12 speeches Angela Davis delivered between 1994 and 2009. Davis views freedom in a unique fashion, one that is not bounded by the rules of law; rather, it the possibility to express oneself in a society that does not limit the way any person can pursue their life with opportunities that is not just limited to the privileged white. She defines the term “prison industrial complex”, a place that is created not as a penitentiary, but as a business propositio ...more
Eileen Gebbie, Reverential
Apr 27, 2021 rated it it was amazing
You know that Fugees line "Joni Mitchell never lies"? Well, neither doesn Angela Davis. She has been telling the truth about our prison system, civil rights v human rights, free market capitalism as a false marker of democracy, and the intersections of oppression for decades. Nothing in our current eras violence and loss and polarization come as a surprise to those who study her work. She offers a compelling source of hope, too: Imagine how bad it would be if millions of nameless, ordinary peopl ...more
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
"We fight the same battles over and over again. They are never won for eternity, but in the progress of struggling together, in community, we learn how to glimpse new possibilities that otherwise never would have become apparent to us, and in the process we expand and enlarge our very notion of freedom."

a collection of speeches that will sit with me for a very long time. thank you davis, thank you.
Jun 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Remarkable, enduring, and endlessly insightful. I could have highlighted the entire book.

”We fight the same battles over and over again. They are never won for eternity, but in the process of struggling together, in community, we learn how to glimpse new possibilities that otherwise never would have become apparent to us, and in the process we expand and enlarge our very notion of freedom.”
Apr 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book contains some of my favorite Angela Davis writing on capitalism, neoliberalism and individualism. The theme of this book, and all of Angela Davis' work, but specifically this book reminds me of the MLK quotes "No one is free until we are all free" and "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". All forms of oppression are interconnected and this book does a great job of communicating that. ...more
Sam Middleton
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: to-read-in-2020
In this collection of speeches, Davis effortlessly employs an intersectional approach to argue how inequalities are perpetuated in America's 'democratic capitalism' discourse, primarily through examination of the prison-industrial complex (Davis' personal key interest).

These speeches are intelligent, well articulated, passionate and thought provoking. I think they've provided a little inspiration and motivation to the activist lying dormant within me.
Sep 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
It’s Angela Davis, so she’s brilliant and insightful. It was definitely interesting to begin this book toward the beginning of the Trump administration and get back to during the pandemic and BLM. Davis has been trying for so long to get the general public’s attention on all the issues she covers here. I hope people are listening. That said, if you’re new to Davis I wouldn’t start here, but with Are Prisons Obsolete?
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really liked the ideas/claims that she presented in her speeches, and I agree with a majority of them. However, it was difficult reading separate speeches, and it seemed too sporadic and not very cohesive. She also didn't use a lot of evidence or statistical data to support her ideas and arguments. Other than that, I liked this book. ...more
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Angela Yvonne Davis is an American political activist, scholar, and author. She emerged as a nationally prominent activist and radical in the 1960s, as a leader of the Communist Party USA, and had close relations with the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement despite never being an official member of the party. Prisoner rights have been among her continuing inter ...more

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