Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama rescinds honor for political activist Angela Davis

January 8, 2019

That giving human right awards is not always easy the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in Alabama has learned the hard way: it has rescinded its decision to honor political activist and scholar Angela Davis. [Davis is a Birmingham native who has spent decades fighting for civil rights. She was an active member of the Black Panther Party, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Communist Party USA.] The institute announced Saturday that an examination of Davis’ statements and public record concluded that she didn’t “meet all of the criteria” for the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. The statement (see full text below) didn’t indicate what criteria it found Davis didn’t meet or the origin of the complaints. But while expressing “dismay” at the decision, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin cited protests from the “local Jewish community and some of its allies.” Davis has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.  CNN has contacted officials at the institute for more clarity on what the concerns were and why they made the move. Davis herself said in her statement that she, too, asked for more clarity on the board’s decision. “I later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue,” she said.

THE ANNUAL FRED L. SHUTTLESWORTH HUMAN RIGHTS AWARD:

In September of 2018, the ‪Birmingham Civil Rights Institute‬’s (BCRI) Board of Directors selected Angela Davis to receive the prestigious Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award at its annual gala in February 2019. In late December, supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision.

Upon closer examination of Ms. Davis’ statements and public record, we concluded that she unfortunately does not meet all of the criteria on which the award is based. Therefore, on January 4, BCRI’s Board voted to rescind its invitation to Ms. Davis to honor her with the Shuttlesworth Award. While we recognize Ms. Davis’ stature as a scholar and prominent figure in civil rights history, we believe this decision is consistent with the ideals of the award’s namesake, Rev. Shuttlesworth.

We regret that this change is necessary, and apologize to our supporters, the community and Ms. Davis for the confusion we have caused. We will move forward with a keen focus on our mission: to enlighten each generation about civil and human rights by exploring our common past and working together in the present to build a better future.

The associated gala event, scheduled for ‪February 16th‬ at Haven has been cancelled. Ticket purchasers will received a full refund.

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