FIRST EDITION. EXTENSIVELY ANNOTATED THROUGHOUT AND SIGNED ON THE TITLE-PAGE. This work is a compilation of essays by Davis and others about not just Davis’s case, but about the political use of incarceration in America. “The fact that I am listed as primary author of this book is somewhat misleading,” Davis writes. “This was a thoroughly collaborative project, conceived, written, and organized by a number of people involved in the legal and mass defense campaigns when I myself was in jail.” The book contains essays by James Baldwin, Huey Newton, and several others. Davis adapted the final line of Baldwin’s essay for her title: “if they take you in the morning, they will be coming for us that night.”
Davis was arrested on October 13, 1970 and charged as an accessory to kidnappings and murders committed by Jonathan Jackson in San Rafael, California in August 1970. Jackson used a gun registered to Davis to take a judge, a district attorney and three jurors hostage. In an ensuing shootout, Jackson and three other people were killed. Davis, who had already been turned into a political lightning rod by California governor Ronald Reagan for her radical political views, made the FBI’s most wanted list and was captured two months later. She was not released on bail until February 23, 1972, and was acquitted of all charges in June 1972. She thereafter dedicated her life to the plight of political prisoners and to an examination of what she called the “prison-industrial complex” in the United States. Her annotations are full of memories and praise for fellow prisoners, lawyers and activists, and even one of the guards from her own incarceration. She ends with the “heartening” note that “today there is widespread support in the U.S. for the demand to end mass incarceration and … increasing numbers of people are heeding the call to abolish imprisonment as the dominant mode of punishment.”
DAVIS, Angela Y. (b. 1944) and Other Political Prisoners. If They Come in the Morning. New York: The Third Press, 1971. 8°. Original black cloth, stamped in red and white; dust jacket.