The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute will award Birmingham native Angela Davis its 2018 Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award — again. Friday’s reversal is the latest development in a public controversy that has embroiled the institute for the past month.
BCRI officials announced in October that Davis would receive the annual award. But on Jan. 3, the board voted at a special meeting to rescind the award saying Davis did not “meet all of the criteria on which the award is based.” The statement did not specify the criteria.
Davis grew up in Birmingham during the civil rights era. The longtime civil rights activist is former a member of the Black Panther and Communist parties. She’s a retired professor of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Davis is also a vocal critic of the Israeli government’s policies toward Palestinians and supports the movement to boycott Israel.
That support appears to have motivated the decision to rescind the award. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin, an ex-officio member of the BCRI board, said in a statement at the time the decision was made that the award was withdrawn “after protests from some members of the community, Jewish and otherwise.” Days before the award was rescinded, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center’s board wrote the BCRI saying it was concerned and disappointed with the decision to honor Davis.
The board’s move prompted a wave of criticism. Woodfin said he was “dismayed.” Activists called for board members to resign. Three board members did resign and the board issued an apology a few days later. Davis said she would still come to Birmingham in February, despite the gala honoring her having been cancelled, for a series of alternative events.
Friday’s statement from the BCRI board says the board voted Jan. 14, the day it issued the apology, to “reaffirm Dr. Davis as the recipient.” It says the board immediately invited Davis to reaccept the award. The statement says the vote was part of learning from its mistakes and keeping in line with the organization’s mission.
Calls to the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and Angela Davis were not immediately returned.