A line of hopefuls looped around the entrance of the Alumni Memorial Building Tuesday night before doors opened at 6:15 p.m. for the highly-anticipated speaker, activist Angela Davis.
Hosted by UT's Issues Committee, more than 600 locals, students and professors gathered in the Cox Auditorium to listen to Davis, an American activist, scholar and author whose work was highly publicized in the 60s, speak about the injustices of the penal system and a different definition of slavery.
While the predominantly young audience may not have known the full extent of Davis' activism as a Communist party leader or of her close ties with the Black Panther party during the Civil Rights movement, many students, like Jacquelyn Wilson, a senior in biochemistry, understood the generational gap and said it didn't stop them from hearing Davis' message.
"I asked my dad if he knew who she was because I didn't ... and he said that she was part of the Black Panthers," Wilson said. "Anyone who has anything positive and uplifting to say to the young black youth is valuable because there's a lot of us in prison or in trouble."
Davis brought a unique perspective to issues like slavery. According to Davis, the era we call "Jim Crow" should be renamed as the age of "Neo-slavery."
She argued that even though the 13th amendment brought the legal freedom of black men, slavery continues under a clause that enslaves African Americans under a different name: the convict-lease system.
Prior to the Civil War, Davis noted prisons were occupied by 90 percent white inmates, with a marginal 10 percent of blacks. However, in post-antebellum America, this statistic flipped, with a population of 90 percent black and 10 percent white imprisoned.
Kaitlin Malick, senior in sociology and African studies, was in attendance for Davis' lecture.
Malick said her own passion for political work centers on fighting gentrification and the removal of poor black people from growing neighborhoods.
"I admire and respect Angela Davis' commitment to the movement to end oppression," Malick said. "I am interested in better understanding how black men are systematically removed from their communities."
Shouts and applause came from the audience affirming Davis' call for the annihilation of all prisons. She challenged the audience to reconsider the illusion people were safer because of the imprisonment of African Americans.
Chris Wohlwend, lecturer in journalism, said he felt disappointed by Davis' lack of focus and solutions. He had encouraged many of his students to attend her talk because he had been present during Davis' political activism as a radical Marxist in the 60s and 70s.
"A lot of things she went over were things I heard a lot because I grew up in the same period that she grew up," Wohlwend said. "But for someone in your age group, he or she knew would know very little about what she was talking about."