Charles T. Davis, Penn State’s First Tenured African American Professor

For the month of February, the Underground will shine a spotlight on prominent figures in the black community.


In 1961, Charles T. Davis stepped on Penn State’s campus as an associate professor of English. Prior to this, Davis had held roles at prominent universities such as Yale and Bryn Mawr College.

Through hard work and dedication, Davis was promoted to a full tenured professor in the department on English in 1963.

Three years after his promotion, Davis went on academic leave to lecture on “American Romantics” in Italy at the University of Turin.

Davis made even more history in 1968 as the first African American to be elected as a member of the State College Literary Club, a club in which only 117 people were granted membership since its founding in 1896.

Follow his time at Penn State, Davis went on to teach at the University of Iowa and the became the director of Afr0-American Studies at Yale.

Later in life, Davis served as a mentor for Henry Louis Gates, an American historian literary critic, and filmmaker.

Davis died on March 26, 1981 as an accomplish professor and intellectual in the English and African-American studies field.



About Adriana Lacy (64 Articles)
Adriana is from the oh-so-famous town of “Right Outside of Philly,” Pennsylvania currently double majoring in Public Relations and African-American Studies. She is a passionate sports fan, avid reader, and an obsessive tweeter. In her spare time, she enjoys writing about sports and social justice while drinking urban-framed, artisan crafted coffee. A proud black student, Adriana considers herself a social justice warrior and strives to promote racial equality and diversity in her community. Email her at and tweet with her at @adriana_lacy

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