Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation
The Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation (BCTR) is a group that was organized by various activists in 2019 in order to plan an an event in honor of Angela Davis after the board of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute reversed its plans to present her with the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award. When Davis was contacted by two groups hoping to step in and welcome her to her home town, she asked them to work together.
The name of the organization makes reference to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was established in 1996 to hold public hearings on the history of apartheid in that country as it worked to establish a just and democratic society. The committee pursued what its planners called "restorative justice" as an alternative to "criminal justice", with the goal of repairing relationships between formerly opposed groups rather than seeking bodily punishment. To that end, the Commission was empowered to grant amnesty to individuals who confessed to and repudiated past human rights violations.
Calls for a similar commission to address human rights violations arising from segregation in Birmingham have been made from time to time. The "Community Affairs Committee" which was created in 1963 and later merged into Operation New Birmingham, was an early effort at bridging divisions. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, while not intended as an advocacy organization, includes "reconciliation" among its institutional goals. The "Birmingham Pledge", promoted since 1997, also seeks self-reflection as part of a commitment to justice. A symposium, entitled "The Gathering: Civil Rights Justice Remembered" brought 1,200 attendees to Birmingham-Southern College in 2004.
Individuals involved in forming the BCTR in 2019 included:
- Anderson, S. Willoughby (April 2008) "The Past on Trial: Birmingham, the Bombing, and Restorative Justice" California Law Review, Vol. 96, No. 2, pp. 471-504
- Johnson, Roy S. (February 18, 2019) "Inter-generational coalition that brought Angela Davis home is what city needs now." The Birmingham News