Award Revoked? Civil Rights Institute Takes Back Angela Davis’ Award After Questioning Her History

by Brianna Moné Williams

January 8, 2019

Photo by Gonzalo Marroquin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

We all know Angela Davis for being a radical activist from working with the Communist Party in the 60s to being a part of the Black Panther Party during the Civil Rights Movement. But apparently, her history of fighting for political and social change isn’t enough, according to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. After selecting the professor for its Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, the organization’s board of directors has decided to take the honor back.

The institute recently released a very non-specific statement about their decision to cancel her award: “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. 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.”

So what exactly could’ve caused this odd turn of events? Davis later found out the real reason behind the withdrawal: “I later learned that my long-term support of justice for Palestine was at issue.” She went on to say that her planned upcoming trip to Birmingham, where she was born and raised, to receive this award was supposed to be the highlight of her year.

Birmingham mayor, Randall Woodfin said he was “dismayed” by this decision, and confirmed that the initial verdict to give the freedom fighter the award was followed by “protests from our local Jewish community and some of its allies.”

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 21: Angela Davis speaks during attends the Women’s March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

In December, Southern Jewish Life posted a story about the author’s upcoming award that said: “For some in the community, there might be some indigestion at the dinner over this year’s honoree.” The story went on to elaborate on why there might be some tension from the Jewish community: “Something not included in the Institute’s publicity for the event is that Davis has also been an outspoken voice in the boycott Israel movement, and advocates extensively on college campuses for the isolation of the Jewish state, saying Israel engages in ethnic cleansing and is connected to police violence against African-Americans in the United States.”

Since the news broke, black activists have been calling for leadership changes at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute due to how they handled the situation with the Alabama native. Birmingham community activist Frank Matthews spoke up: “This is the ultimate insult to deny Angela Davis her inheritance. He added that museum leaders should quit and protests will be held over the decision.

Now, Black Twitter is saying #IStandWithAngela in solidarity over the institute’s decision:

TELL US: Do you think the institute made the wrong move? Why?

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