Angela Davis to get award as Birmingham civil rights body reverses course again

Jewish leaders allegedly had pressured the institute to rescind its award; Davis said her pro-Palestinian activism was the reason for withdrawal

Angela Davis speaks at the University of Michigan-Flint in 2015. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)
Angela Davis speaks at the University of Michigan-Flint in 2015. (Jake May/The Flint Journal via AP, File)

JTA — Angela Davis will be honored by an Alabama civil rights center after all.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, after rescinding its award to Davis allegedly due in part to complaints from Jewish leaders, reversed course on Friday in recognizing the African-American activist.

“This update follows a BCRI Board of Directors January 14 public apology for its missteps in conferring, then rescinding, its nomination of Dr. Angela Y. Davis in early January,” the institute said Friday in a statement.

“Immediately after that public apology, in keeping with its commitment to learning from its mistakes and in order to stay true to the BCRI’s founding mission, the Board voted to reaffirm Dr. Davis as the recipient,” it said. “Dr. Davis was immediately thereafter personally invited to reaccept the award. The BCRI respects her privacy and timing in whatever her response may ultimately be.”

The museum and educational center’s decision to withdraw the Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award from Davis stirred controversy after reports emerged that some local Jewish leaders had objected on the grounds of her endorsement of a boycott of Israel. A former local college president had also publicly objected to the award due to Davis’ past affiliation with the Communist Party.

Davis wrote that her pro-Palestinian activism was the reason for the withdrawal, as did Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. But local Jewish leadership declined to comment, and no concrete evidence emerged that Jewish complaints were the deciding factor. Three BCRI board members resigned over the controversy.

Davis also is controversial for her past associations with radicals and with communist countries, and for declining to speak out on behalf of dissidents in communist-era Europe.

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