Reversing Course, Civil Rights Museum to Honor Angela Davis After All

Long-time civil rights leader alleged that decision to rescind award was based on her support for pro-Palestinian causes

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File photo: Angela Davis in a scene from the Netflix film "13th", September 2016.
File photo: Angela Davis in a scene from the Netflix film "13th", September 2016.Credit: Netflix via AP

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

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, after 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.