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Aretha Franklin’s Activism Included Support for Black Queer Icon Angela Davis

The Queen of Soul was willing to put her money where her mouth was.

Aretha Franklin passed away on Thursday morning, but news of her illness had been circulating for several days online prior to the announcement. As people prepared to say goodbye to the beloved singer, the voice of the US civil rights movement, they also shared stories about Franklin and her dedication to black liberation. One of those stories includes black queer icon Angela Davis.

According to a clip from a December 1970 issue of Jet magazine, Franklin declared her support for Davis, who had been arrested by the FBI after J. Edgar Hoover put her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitive List when she was charged with aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder. She hadn’t committed the crime, but had purchased the weapons used in the crime and was thus charged.

Franklin was quoted in Jet as saying that she would be willing to pay Davis’ bail, “whether it’s $100,000 or $250,000,” herself.

“Black people will be free,” Franklin said. “I’ve been locked up (for disturbing the peace in Detroit), and I know you got to disturb the peace when you can’t get no peace.”

She added, “Jail is hell to be in. I’m going to see her free if there is any justice in our courts, not because I believe in communism, but because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people.”

Davis was recently in the news after fashion label Prada began selling shirts featuring the anti-capitalist pro-Black icon for $500 and a coat with her likeness for $1700.


Mathew Rodriguez

Mathew is a staff writer at INTO. His work has appeared in Mic, Slate and Complex. He loves "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," Flannery O'Connor and female rappers and is working on a memoir.

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