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The Lost Black ScholarResurrecting Allison Davis in American Social Thought$
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David A. Varel

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226534886

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226534916.001.0001

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Into the Southern “Wilds”

Into the Southern “Wilds”

(p.82) Chapter 4 Into the Southern “Wilds”
The Lost Black Scholar

David A. Varel

University of Chicago Press

The fourth chapter begins by chronicling the fieldwork of Allison Davis, Elizabeth Davis, Mary Gardner, Burleigh Gardner, and Saint Clair Drake in their community study of Natchez, Mississippi, from 1933 to 1935. It then evaluates the classic book that emerged from that research: Deep South (1941), along with Allison Davis’s memo to Gunnar Myrdal, which informed parts of Myrdal’s highly influential Carnegie Corporation study of American race relations: An American Dilemma (1944). Finally, the chapter explores the reception of Deep South among social scientists and the larger reading public. As many commentators understood, the book resulted in an unprecedented depth and breadth of ethnographic material on life within the southern United States. It breathed life into the world of Jim Crow, and it explained how racial caste and class intersected to stratify life in Natchez. Less appreciated was how Allison and Elizabeth transgressed racial mores in the academy by taking the lead in an interracial community study, with Allison serving as first author of the book.

Keywords:   Mary Gardner, Burleigh Gardner, Saint Clair Drake, Natchez, Mississippi, Deep South, Gunnar Myrdal, An American Dilemma, Jim Crow, caste, class

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