Angela Davis, Danai Gurira to deliver Spelman commencement speeches

The famed scholar-activist and acclaimed actress will address Spelman College’s graduating classes of '21 and '20.

Famed scholar, writer, philosopher and equal rights activist Angela Y. Davis will deliver the keynote address for Spelman College’s 134th Commencement ceremony, honoring the graduating class of 2021 on Sunday, May 16. 

Tony Award-nominated playwright and actress Danai Gurira will deliver the keynote address for the class of 2020 on the same date, but earlier in the morning. She will be speaking to the class whose original commencement date was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Famed scholar-activist Angela Y. Davis (left) and acclaimed actress-playwright Danai Gurira (right) will deliver the keynote addresses for Spelman College’s graduating classes of 2021 and 2020, respectively, on Sunday, May 16. (Photos by Jemal Countess/Getty Images and Leon Bennett/Getty Images)

Both women will receive honorary degrees from the prestigious institution. Writer Pearl Cleage, who is a Spelman alumna, will receive a National Community Service Award during the 2021 ceremony, and North Carolina Rep. Alma S. Adams will receive the same award during the 2020 ceremony. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic presented the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021 with a set of obstacles unlike any other, and they have proven that they were up to the task,” said Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D., president of Spelman College, in a statement. 

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“Although their lives were essentially put on pause, these two classes displayed resilience and courage and thrived despite the tremendous challenges presented by the pandemic,” Campbell said. “We are excited to celebrate this milestone with our stellar graduates and their families.”

Davis is an icon in the movement for equal rights and is best known for being placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List on false charges. She was arrested and held for 16 months before being acquitted of charges of aggravated kidnapping and first-degree murder of a Bay Area judge. 

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For more than 25 years, Davis has been a professor and lecturer about racism, sexism, terrorism, LGBTQ rights, immigration, feminism and the criminal justice system. She is the author of nine books, including Angela Davis: An Autobiography and a new edition of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.

Gurira is best known as General Okoye in the Academy Award-winning Marvel film, Black Panther, and for her portrayal of Michonne in the hit AMC series, The Walking Dead

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Also a playwright and philanthropist, Gurira is the founder of Love Our Girls, an organization that spotlights challenges that are unique to women. She is also the co-founder of Almasi Arts, an arts collaborative focused on professionalizing the performing arts in Zimbabwe, her parents’ home nation. 

Spelman College is the Atlanta-based liberal arts college founded in 1881 globally recognized as a leader in the education of women of African descent. 

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