The patronage dilemma: Allison Davis's Odyssey from Fellow to faculty

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This article analyzes the role of the Julius Rosenwald Fund in shaping the career of W. Allison Davis, a distinguished anthropologist who became the first African American appointed to the faculty of a mostly white university. From 1928 to 1948, the Rosenwald Fund ran an expansive fellowship program for African American intellectuals, which, despite its significance, remains largely unexamined in the scholarly literature. Davis tied his academic aspirations to Rosenwald Fund support, including for his early research and the terms of his faculty appointment. His experiences illustrate the dynamics inclusion and exclusion of African Americans in the academy; paternalistic promotion and strategic denial functioned as two sides of the same coin. Spotlighting Davis's negotiations, this article establishes how presumptions of racial inferiority guided Rosenwald patronage and demonstrates the extent to which the principles of meritocracy and expertise remained secondary concerns for those interested in cultivating African American intellectuals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)581-610
Number of pages30
JournalHistory of Education Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • History


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