The introduction first identifies Davis as an important and pioneering African-American intellectual within the twentieth-century United States. It then takes up as its central problem the question of why, despite his achievements, he has been so marginalized within the historiography. The answer offered is three-fold: his interdisciplinary activity, his iconoclasm, and racism within the academy. First, as Davis moved between English, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and education, scholars lost track of his contributions, which transgressed disciplinary lines. Second, Davis’s iconoclastic ideas (New Humanist philosophy during the New Negro Renaissance, caste and class stratification during the Cold War, and cultural biases of intelligence tests during their proliferation), and his affiliation with iconoclastic research traditions (social anthropology in the interwar United States, culture-and-personality via Yale’s Institute of Human Relations, and education as applied anthropology at the University of Chicago), marginalized his work. Finally, racism within the academy marginalized Davis’s contributions. As he collaborated with white scholars, even as the chief theorist and first author, his contributions were often subsumed under theirs. All of these factors highlight how a close look at Davis’s marginalized career reveals a great deal about not simply one man, but the twentieth-century United States as a whole.
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