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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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Bending the Academic Color Line

Bending the Academic Color Line

(p.133) Chapter 6 Bending the Academic Color Line
The Lost Black Scholar

David A. Varel

University of Chicago Press

The sixth chapter narrates Davis’s landmark appointment to the University of Chicago faculty in 1942. The appointment made Davis the first African American to secure a full-time position at a predominantly white university, though it was at first limited to a three-year contract with the Julius Rosenwald Foundation subsidizing most of Davis’s salary. The move was made possible through the collaboration of powerful white liberals at the Rosenwald Foundation, especially president Edwin Embree, and at the University of Chicago, above all educationalist Ralph Tyler. Despite the opposition of Rosenwald trustee Edgar B. Stern and others, Embree and Tyler allied with University president Robert M. Hutchins to effectively challenge the color line. In this, they were aided by the democratizing effects of World War II. Yet even though the appointment did have far-reaching implications, its exceptional nature underscored the larger continuity in race relations even amid progressive change. The overt and covert racism Davis faced at Chicago, which marginalized his accomplishments and was personally humiliating, testified to how little had changed.

Keywords:   University of Chicago, Julius Rosenwald Foundation, Edwin Embree, Ralph Tyler, Edgar Stern, Robert Hutchins, World War II, racism

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