Academic and civil rights activist, Angela Davis was nominated for the Fred Shuttlesworth Award in early January, by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI), but soon after, the award was rescinded due to Professor Davis’ outspoken support of Palestinian equal rights.

The decision was reversed on January 25th, when the board issued a statement stating it has “voted to reaffirm Dr. Davis as the recipient (of the Fred Shuttlesworth Award),”, inviting Dr. Davis to come to Birmingham to receive the award. It is not yet known whether Dr. Davis will accept the invitation.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute President and CEO Andrea Taylor said, in reinstating the award, “Dr. Angela Davis, a daughter of Birmingham, is highly regarded throughout the world as a human rights activist. In fact, the Schlesinger Library at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study acquired her personal archives in 2018, recognizing her significance in the movement for human rights, her involvement in raising issues of feminism, as well as her leadership in the campaign against mass incarceration. Her credentials in championing human rights are noteworthy.”
When the award was rescinded, Davis told reporters, “Although the [Birmingham Civil Rights Institute] refused my requests to reveal the substantive reasons for this action, I later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue. “
Davis said she was “stunned” by the move, adding, “I have devoted much of my own activism to international solidarity and, specifically, to linking struggles in other parts of the world to US grassroots campaigns against police violence, the prison industrial complex and racism more broadly. The rescinding of this invitation and the cancellation of the event where I was scheduled to speak was thus not primarily an attack against me but rather against the very spirit of the indivisibility of justice”.

The reversal came after “a public outcry in support of Davis, including a letter signed by more than 300 scholars, human rights activists, and veterans of the civil rights movement” The letter stated, in part, “We may not all agree on the best way forward in the Middle East but we do share Dr. Davis’ view that the Israeli Occupation is wrong, and that the repressive, discriminatory and often violent policies of the Israeli government vis-à-vis the Palestinian population are wrong and indefensible…”

The letter also stated “we will not be bullied into silence [on the issue of Palestine]. Individuals and institutions that choose to punish, censor, blacklist and dishonor anyone who dares to take a critical stand on this issue are acting in the disgraceful tradition of McCarthyism”.

Michelle Anderson, New York Times columnist, and signatory to the letter, wrote that the “attack [on Dr. Davis] backfired. Within 48 hours, academics and activists had mobilized in response”. Alexander went on to say, “We must must condemn Israel’s actions : unrelenting violations of international law, continued occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, home demolitions and land confiscations.”