BLACK VOICES

Aretha Franklin Offered To Post Angela Davis' Bail In 1970

"I’m going to see her free... because she’s a Black woman and she wants freedom for Black people," Franklin said of the civil rights leader.
08/17/2018 09:54 AM ET
"Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin in a recording session on Jan. 10, 1969, in New York. She told Jet magazine in 1970 that she was interested in paying the bail for activist Angela Davis.
(Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images)

The “Queen of Soul” once offered to post bail for civil rights leader Angela Davis

Aretha Franklin told Jet magazine in 1970 that she would pay Davis’ bail after the social justice warrior was arrested on charges relating to an armed takeover of a California courtroom during which four people died. 

In the Jet clip, which began circulating after Franklin died Thursday morning, the iconic singer, who was 28 at the time, said she would post bail for then-26-year-old Davis because she “wants freedom for Black people.”

“Angela Davis must go free. Black people will be free,” Franklin is quoted as saying in the article.

“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. 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,” she continued. “I have the money; I got it from Black people ― they’ve made me financially able to have it ― and I want to use it in ways that will help our people.”

The Queen of Soul said she would pay the bond “whether it’s $100,000 or $250,000.” Davis, who was prosecuted on conspiracy charges, was acquitted on all counts two years later. 

Franklin, who was born on March 25, 1942, was a civil rights icon herself. Born to the Rev. C.L. Franklin, a Baptist minister and gospel singer, Franklin grew up in a politically active household. Her father became close with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and helped to spearhead civil rights demonstrations including Detroit’s 1963 Freedom March.

She used her fame to help promote King when she went on tour with him and fellow singer Harry Belafonte. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, an activist and close friend of Franklin’s, reflected on all that Franklin did to support the civil rights movement in a recent interview with the Detroit Free Press

“When Dr. King was alive, several times she helped us make payroll,” Jackson said. “On one occasion, we took an 11-city tour with her as Aretha Franklin and Harry Belafonte ... and they put gas in the vans. She did 11 concerts for free and hosted us at her home and did a fundraiser for my campaign. Aretha has always been a very socially conscious artist, an inspiration, not just an entertainer. She has shared her points of view from the stage for challenged people, to register to vote, to stand up for decency.”

Franklin performed “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” at King’s funeral in 1968. 

She went on to become the first woman inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and in 2005 she received the highest U.S. civilian honor, a Presidential Medal of Freedom.