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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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Caste, Class, and Personality

Caste, Class, and Personality

(p.108) Chapter 5 Caste, Class, and Personality
The Lost Black Scholar

David A. Varel

University of Chicago Press

The fifth chapter investigates Davis’s involvement in the culture-and-personality school in the latter half of the 1930s. In particular, it tracks the making and reception of Davis’s and John Dollard’s classic book Children of Bondage (1940). Davis began the study while a professor of anthropology at Dillard University in New Orleans. He allied with Yale sociologist John Dollard, who had devised a distinct culture-and-personality orientation under the guidance of linguist Edward Sapir. After Davis had gathered the research with Dollard, the two men spent the first several months of 1938 at Yale University’s Institute of Human Relations, where they drafted the book. Children of Bondage represented a landmark of interdisciplinary collaboration, and it was theoretically pioneering in combining the Davis’s caste-and-class framework with an analysis of socialization among black youths in Natchez and New Orleans. In addition to theoretical innovation, Children of Bondage also served as a compelling document that humanized the black youth that it described. The book’s commercial success and positive reception testified to the book’s achievements, though some reviewers misunderstood it as merely enumerating the damage among black youths.

Keywords:   culture-and-personality, John Dollard, Children of Bondage, Dillard University, Edward Sapir, Yale, Institute of Human Relations, caste, class

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