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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Radical Resistance: Constructions of a Transnational Self in Angela Davis's and Cynthia McKinney’s Memoirs

  • Author(s): Linke, Gabriele
  • et al.

To achieve a better understanding of the dynamic transnationalism at work in African American politics since the 1960s, this study compares the life narratives by Angela Davis and Cynthia McKinney, two transnationally active radical Black intellectuals known for their fierce opposition to mainstream US politics. Davis’s An Autobiography was first published in 1974, McKinney’s memoir Ain’t Nothing Like Freedom in 2013, which means that the texts were conceived at different points in African American, US and world history. Despite the temporal distance between the two autobiographical texts, they show some fundamental similarities in the construction of the self as both authors on the one hand evoke the history of slavery and slave resistance as their political ‘pedigree’ while on the other hand they emphasize their transnational perspective. They foreground political struggle and intellectual analysis rather than elaborating the details of personal life. Major differences arise from their different positions with regard to the political establishment. While Davis presents her life story as representative of the fight for Black liberation and Civil Rights, former Congresswoman McKinney describes herself as an uncompromising outsider and lone voice of resistance to mainstream US politics. As she targets government lies, she supports the credibility of her own stories by the excessive use of documents from photographs through hate mails to Congressional records, making her own activism transparent. Her outlook with regard to peace, justice, and the role of the Unites States in the world is, however, less optimistic than Angela Davis’s after her release from prison in 1974.

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