William Allison Davis (1902-1983)

An educator, anthropologist, writer, researcher, and scholar, William Boyd Allison Davis was considered one of the most promising black scholars of his generation. He became the first African-American to hold a full faculty position at a major white university when he joined the staff of the University of Chicago in 1942, where he would spend the balance of his academic life. Among his students during his tenure at the University of Chicago were anthropologist St. Clair Drake and sociologist Nathan Hare. Davis, who has been honored with a commemorative postage stamp by the United States Postal Service, is best remembered for his pioneering anthropology research on southern race and class during the 1930s, his research on intelligence quotient in the 1940s and 50’s, and his support of “compensatory education” that contributed to the intellectual genesis of the federal program Head Start.

  • 1942 Social Anthropology Ph.D.; University of Chicago
  • 1925 BA English; Harvard University
  • Anthropology; London School of Economics
  • 1924 BA summa cum laude English; William College
  • Dissertation: The Relation between Color Caste and Economic Stratification in Two Black Plantation Counties.
  • Areas of research interest: acculturation, race and social class, child development, personality and intelligence
  • Awarded Julian Rosenwald Fellowships in Anthropology 1932, 1939, 1940.
  • Professor of Anthropology, Head of the Division of Social Studies, Dillard University 1935-1940.
  • Professor in the Department of Education, University of Chicago 1942 (first Black professor); Full Professor in 1948; John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor of Education, 1970.
  • First educator to become a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • Selected Publications: Children of Bondage: The Personality Development of Negro Youth in the Urban South (1940, co-authored with John Dollard), Deep South: A Social Anthropological Study of Caste and Class (1941, co-authored with Burleigh and Mary Gardner), Intelligence and Cultural Differences: A Study of Cultural Learning and Problem-solving (1951, co-authored with Kenneth Eells, Robert Havighurst, Virgil Herrick, and Ralph Tyler)