Blacks@Dartmouth 1775 to 1960

Charles Twitchell Davis

English Professor and Yale's Afro-American Studies Chair

alumnus image

Dartmouth College A.B.

Class of 1939

Phi Beta Kappa

1951 NYU (Ph.D.)

Born  1918  Hampton VA

Died 1981 Hamden CT

Quotes from Biographical Sources

Charles T. Davis died of cancer at the Yale Health Center on March 25. Charlie came to Hanover from Phenix High School, Hampton Institute, Hampton, Va., where he had been valedictorian of his class. At Dartmouth he was Phi Beta Kappa and a senior fellow. He had a long career in the world of academe, earning a master's degree at the University of Chicago in 1942 and a Ph.D. at New York University in 1951. With the exception of a World War II interlude from 1942 until 1946 in the U.S. Army, he taught throughout his life. At the time of his death he chaired the Afro-American Studies program at Yale University, where he had been teaching since 1972.

Previously, Charlie had taught in the English departments of Penn State University, Princeton, New York University, and the University of Iowa, and also as visiting professor at Rutgers, Bryn Mawr, Harvard and the American Studies Research Centre at Osmania University in Hyderabad, India. He was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Turin, Italy in 1966-67.

Charlie was a member of the Board of Vineland State Institute (1958-61) and chaired the human relations commission of Centre City, Pa. (1969-70). He was president of the Penn State Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (1955-66), a member of the board of supervisors of the English Institute, a member of the college section of the executive committee of the National Council of Teachers of English, and chair of a section of the Modern Language Association.

But Charlie was more, much more than credentials, as President A. Bartlett Giamatti of Yale pointed out movingly in his memorial tribute to Charlie: "He never imposed upon you, he summoned you out of yourself. Charles never bid you be his loyal friend; once you met him, you could choose no other course. To be with him or around him was an education in how to be faithful to the best you could possibly be. He brought out, effortlessly, the best you had, and like everyone else I loved him for it."

He is survived by Jeanne Curtis Davis, whom he married in 1943; two sons. Anthony C. and Charles C; a brother Don A. '34; a cousin Davis Young '70; a sister Elizabeth Adams; and one grandson.

Obituary. (Sep 1981). Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, 74(1), 72.

Other source(s)

  1. Rutledge, Chris. Charles T. Davis Biography - Selected works. Retrieved from
  2. Charles T. Davis papers. (1931-1980). [38 boxes]. Beinecke Rare Book and ManuScript Library. Yale University.
  3. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (2007). Charles Twitchell Davis: The Seminal Scholar of the African-American Literary Tradition. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education(56), 54-58.

Profile image source: Dartmouth Aegis 1939