Black or White? Angela Davis, Bobby Seale und Black Power in den Akten der Staatssicherheit in den 1970er Jahren

The paper analyses one of the most stunning controversies in the 1970s: the solidarity with Angela Davis in Eastern Europe; solidarity used as state propaganda on the one side and as subversive artistic action against the state on the other. Both intended to criticize current power relations.

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„Frei­heit für Angela Davis!“ – Über den Doppel­sinn eines Slogans

Die Unterstützung von Widerstandsbewegungen in anderen Ländern kann Leben retten. Andererseits wird Widerstand gerne vereinnahmt, auch von jenen, die selbst Andere und Anderes unterdrücken. Über die Solidaritätskampagne für Angela Davis im ehemaligen Ostblock und wie ungarische Künstler darauf reagierten.

Angela-Davis_Heinz HOffman 1973
Angela Davis and GDR-Minister of Defence Heinz Hoffmann 1973 in East-Berlin
Quelle: picture-alliance / Sven Simon

Two moves of appropriation of the figure of Angela Davis are in focus: Erich Honecker who staged himself as part of a huge mass-propaganda with Angela Davis, and Tamás St. Auby who showed solidarity with Davis in a happening in Hungary criticizing exactly those socialist power relations that Honecker celebrated.

The State Security measures taken against St. Auby imply, that from the perspective of the state, the appropriation of Angela Davis by non-state artists posed a major threat to the order of the socialist society—showing that state suppression is never black or white, also not in dictatorships.

st.auby reading baldwin
Tamás St.Turba (NETRAF-agent) reading James Baldwin’s “Letter to My Sister” during his action-reading  “Freedom for Angela Davis!” in Budapest 1971; Courtesy: IPUT-Archives, Budapest

The paper also responds to the method of researching in State Security Archives. It shows how these documents can reconstruct operative practices of disruption and disinformation related to artists. All the more those who had the same figure of reference as the official state propaganda–Angela Davis.


Adam Czirak
Aktionskunst jenseits des Eisernen Vorhangs
Künstlerische Kritik in Zeiten politischer Repression