Consequently, Davis grew up surrounded by communist organizers and thinkers who significantly influenced her intellectual development.Davis was involved in her church youth group as a child, and attended Sunday school regularly.Events in the United States, including the formation of the Black Panther Party and the transformation of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to an all-black organization, drew her interest upon her return.On her way back, Davis stopped in London to attend a conference on "The Dialectics of Liberation." The black contingent at the conference included the Trinidadian-American Stokely Carmichael and the British Michael X.Davis's membership in the CPUSA led California Governor Ronald Reagan in 1969 to attempt to have her barred from teaching at any university in the State of California.She supported the governments of the Soviet Bloc for several decades. Her family lived in the "Dynamite Hill" neighborhood, which was marked in the 1950s by the bombings of houses in an attempt to intimidate and drive out middle-class blacks who had moved into the area.As a result of purchasing firearms used in the 1970 armed take-over of a Marin County, California courtroom, in which four persons were killed, she was prosecuted for conspiracy. Her research interests are feminism, African-American studies, critical theory, Marxism, popular music, social consciousness, and the philosophy and history of punishment and prisons.
Later, she moved with a group of students into a loft in an old factory.
During the 1980s, she was twice a candidate for Vice President on the CPUSA ticket. Davis occasionally spent time on her uncle's farm and with friends in New York City. Tuggle School, a segregated black elementary school, and later, Parker Annex, a middle-school branch of Parker High School in Birmingham.
During this time, Davis' mother, Sallye Bell Davis, was a national officer and leading organizer of the Southern Negro Youth Congress, an organization influenced by the Communist Party, trying to build alliances among African Americans in the South.
Davis was awarded a scholarship to Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, where she was one of three black students in her freshman class.
She encountered the Frankfurt School philosopher Herbert Marcuse at a rally during the Cuban Missile Crisis and became his student.
Davis attributes much of her political involvement to her involvement as a young girl in Birmingham with the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.