Davis is an author and academic known for a life of activism that included memberships in the Black Panther Party and the Communist Party USA. She was born in Birmingham in 1944 and experienced segregation there as a child.
The decision came after “supporters and other concerned individuals and organizations, both inside and outside of our local community, began to make requests that we reconsider our decision,” the institute’s board said in a statement posted to its website. “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,” the statement said.
The board said it recognizes Davis’s “stature as a scholar and prominent figure in civil rights history” but believes its decision “is consistent with the details of the award’s namesake, Rev. Shuttlesworth.” The board apologized to “our supporters, the community and Ms. Davis for the confusion we have caused.”
The gala known as the Annual Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award Gala was scheduled for Feb. 16. Ticket purchasers will receive a full refund, the board said.
The award Davis was to receive is named for the Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, a leader of the fight against segregation in Birmingham in 1963. Shuttlesworth co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and worked with the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. The Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is named in his honor.