On Jan. 4, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute revoked its invitation to honor city native Angela Y. Davis at a February gala event where she was to receive the institute’s Rev. Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. Many individuals inside and outside the city objected to giving Davis this award due to her record as a member of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA), brief association with the Black Panther Party, and ongoing association with Black Lives Matter and the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement.

The Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, an ordained Baptist minister, founded the Alabama Christian Movement in 1956 after the state outlawed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Later that year Shuttlesworth and his family were unhurt after the Ku Klux Klan detonated 15 sticks of dynamite under his house. He later fostered demonstrations in 1963 that led to desegregation of public facilities and hiring of blacks by downtown employers. 

Throughout those turbulent years, Shuttlesworth and the NAACP renounced relationships with the CPUSA, and for good reason: the party targeted Alabama’s so-called Black Belt (language that CPUSA used) along with the mine and steel workers in Birmingham. Angela Davis, who was born in Birmingham in 1944, joined the CPUSA in the early 1960s and twice ran for vice president on the party’s ticket. She retained her CPUSA affiliation until after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Examining the Davis record, during her freshman year at Brandeis University she joined the Che-Lumumba Club, a group sponsored by the CPUSA and named for Argentine Communist Ernesto Che Guevara and Congolese Communist Patrice Lumumba. (One of the leading Kremlin-run universities in the USSR was Patrice Lumumba University, which became a leading training ground for Middle East jihadists.) After earning a master’s degree in African-American Studies from the University of California, San Diego in 1968, Davis enrolled at East Berlin’s Humboldt University to earn a doctorate the following year. After the University of California, Los Angeles immediately hired her the California Board of Regents under Gov. Ronald Reagan just as immediately fired her. She was reinstated after the American Association of University Professors threatened UCLA with the blacklist.

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