Following graduation from the College of William and Mary, Davis became principal of the Williamsburg public schools. He served as assistant secretary of the Roanoke Young Men's Christian Association from 1903 until 1904, principal of the public schools at Marion from 1904 until 1905, and superintendent of schools in Henrico County from 1905 until 1909. The years in Henrico County began the long involvement with African American education that would shape the rest of his career.
In 1905 as part of his regular rounds, Davis visited the one-room Mountain Road School for African American children in Henrico County led by Virginia Estelle Randolph. Randolph taught her students practical skills such as gardening, woodworking, and sewing. In addition, she whitewashed the school building and landscaped the school grounds. Davis concluded that Randolph's example could serve as a model for other African American teachers in rural settings and supported her methodology over opposition from some parents who wanted their children to receive a traditional liberal education.
Davis and other white reformers believed the school environment could change only by improving the physical surroundings. Better school facilities would lead directly to other developments in African American communities, Davis maintained. The advancement of rural black schools would lead to better conditions for African Americans generally. School enhancements could not simply be imposed by white reformers, he believed, but had to be linked to other community-building organizations. Davis continually urged active participation and ownership of school upgrading by the African American community. Davis's support for enhancing educational facilities and creating opportunities for African Americans stopped, however, at the color line.
General Education Board
From 1909 until 1910, Davis was an inspector for the newly created Virginia State Board of Examiners. When the General Education Board (GEB) offered to fund a white supervisor of black schools—and Virginia officials agreed—Davis was the obvious, if not the only choice. Davis held the position of State Agent for Negro Rural Schools from 1910 until 1915, when he was appointed as the first field agent for the GEB. During the next fifteen years, most other southern states followed Virginia's lead and appointed field agents to supervise African American schools.
Davis moved out of fieldwork in 1929 when he was appointed assistant director of the General Education Board. He became associate director in 1933 and vice president and director in 1946.
In addition, Davis was the president of the board of trustees of the Booker T. Washington Institute in Liberia, the president of the New York State Colonization Society, and a member of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and of the Advisory Committee on Education in Liberia. A moderate on the issue of race relations, Davis did not challenge segregation, but rather worked within its confines. He never advocated school integration, even in a token way. In that respect, his views possibly slowed the cause of school desegregation in Virginia and in the South in general, even while he was simultaneously responsible for increasing the educational opportunities of African Americans.
- Africa Advancing: A Study of Rural Education and Agriculture in West Africa and the Belgian Congo (1945)
September 25, 1882 - Henry Jackson Davis is born in Cumberland County.
1902 - Jackson Davis earns a BA from the College of William and Mary.
1908 - Jackson Davis earns an MA from Columbia University.
1908 - Virginia Estelle Randolph is appointed the first Jeanes Supervising Industrial Teacher, establishing a formal in-service training in Virginia for African American teachers.
1910–1915 - Jackson Davis serves as a supervisor to black schools in Virginia, holding the position of State Agent for Negro Rural Schools.
May 9, 1911 - Jackson Davis marries Corinne Mansfield in Bluffton, Georgia.
1929 - Jackson Davis transitions out of fieldwork, where he has spent years documenting the poor conditions of black schools, and accepts the appointment of assistant director of the General Education Board.
1935 - Jackson Davis travels to Africa as a Carnegie visitor.
1940 - Jackson Davis becomes vice president of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, an organization devoted to African American education and race relations both in America and in Africa.
1945 - Jackson Davis coauthors with Margaret Wong Africa Advancing, providing the results of a survey made in 1944.
1946 - Jackson Davis becomes president of the Phelps-Stokes Fund.
April 15, 1947 - Jackson Davis dies suddenly at Cartersville in Cumberland County.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Gaynor, E. F. Jackson Davis (1882–1947). (2016, July 8). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Davis_Henry_Jackson_1882-1947.
- MLA Citation:
Gaynor, Edward F. "Jackson Davis (1882–1947)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 8 Jul. 2016. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: November 6, 2008 | Last modified: July 8, 2016