Established by the BCRI Board of Directors in 2002, the Annual Fred L. Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award serves as a tribute to the leadership and courage of the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth throughout the course of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. This annual award is an opportunity for the Institute to recognize individuals for their service to civil and human rights causes around the world. It is the highest honor bestowed on an individual by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

Recipients of the Shuttlesworth award must embody the principles that guided the American Civil Rights Movement and have characterized the life of Fred L. Shuttlesworth:

  • A philosophy of non-violence and reconciliation
  • Courage, both moral and physical, in the face of great odds
  • Humility
  • Leadership by example
  • An established commitment to human-rights activities

Rev. Shuttlesworth was the inaugural recipient of the award. Actor and humanitarian Danny Glover received the award in 2003; Dr. John Hope Franklin in 2004; Congressman John Lewis in 2005; Dorothy Cotton in 2006; Fred Gray in 2007, Joseph Ellwanger in 2008 and Rev. Joseph Lowery in 2009; Congressman James Clyburn in 2010, Journalist and Author Charlayne Hunter-Gault in 2011; Legal Activist and Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative Bryan Stevenson in 2012 and Ambassador Andrew Young in 2013; Dr. C.T. Vivian in 2014 and Attorney Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. in 2015 and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton in 2016.

Co-Chairs of 25th Anniversary Celebration




Corporate Co-Chairs


  • Walter Body, Coca-Cola Bottling Company United 
  • Lajuana Bradford, Regions Bank
  • Rosilyn Houston, BBVA Compass
  • Mike Oatridge, Honda Manufacturing of Alabama




Community Co-Chairs


  • Dr. and Mrs. Robert Corley
  • Bobbie Knight
  • Mr. and Mrs. Iva B. Williams, Jr.

2017 Award Recipients

Harry Belafonte

Jamaican-American musician, actor and human rights activist, joined the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and became one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s closest confidants. Over the years Belafonte organized demonstrations, raised money and contributed his personal funds to keep movement activities going. He has advocated for a range of other humanitarian causes. In 1985, he helped to orchestrate the recording of the Grammy Award winning song We Are the World, a multi-artist effort to raise funds for Africa and in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador. Belafonte has been involved in prostate cancer advocacy since 2006, when he successfully treated for the disease He achieved fame when his 1956 breakthrough album Calypso became the first full-length album to sell over 1 million copies. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing the “Banana Boat Song,” with its signature lyric Day-O. He became the first African American to win an Emmy for his 1959 TV special Tonight with Belafonte, and in 2000, won a Grammy Award for his lifetime achievement in music.

Richard Arrington, Jr.

Richard Arrington, Jr. was the first African American mayor of the city of Birmingham, Alabama, serving 20 years, from 1979 to 1999. Under his tenure as Mayor, Birmingham went from a racially divided city dependent on the steel industry to an economically and culturally diverse hub of the southeastern United States. Throughout the ’70’s and early ’80’s, Arrington led the drive for the establishment of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. A Civil Rights Institute Task Force and Board of Directors were appointed, a site was acquired, and, after much debate, funds to build the Civil Rights Institute were attained. Mayor Arrington also authorized plans for a Civil Rights Cultural District, including a renovated Kelly Ingram Park, a Jazz Hall of Fame in the historic Carver Theatre, and landscaping of public space around the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. On November 15, 1992, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was officially dedicated.

Viola Liuzzo

Viola Liuzzo was killed by Ku Klux Klan members following a voting rights march in Alabama in 1965.and was the only white female protester to die in the civil rights movement. Liuzzo traveled to Alabama from Detroit in March 1965 to help the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) with its efforts to register African-American voters in Selma. Her decision to go to Alabama was driven in part by the events of March 7, 1965, in Selma—also known as “Bloody Sunday.” On March 21, 1965, more than 3,000 marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr. began their trek from Selma to Montgomery to campaign for voting rights for African Americans in the South. In addition to participating in the march, Liuzzo helped by driving supporters between Selma and Montgomery. The group reached Montgomery on March 25, 1965, and that night, Liuzzo was driving another civil rights worker with the SCLC back to Selma, when another car pulled alongside her vehicle. One of the passengers in the neighboring car shot at Liuzzo, striking her in the face and killing her. Years after her vicious murder, Liuzzo has received some recognition for her personal sacrifice.


Sunday: 1:00 PM – 5:00 P.M.

Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 5:00 P.M.












BCRI will close at 2:00pm on Friday, 10/18 and Saturday 11/2 for special events.