The University of Chicago News Office
Oct. 20, 2004 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
(773) 702-4195

Garden honors memory of the late Dr. Allison Davis, University of Chicago professor and noted social anthropologist and educator

The Dr. Allison Davis Garden honors the memory of its namesake, a pioneering scholar and teacher at the University of Chicago in the fields of education and other social sciences. The one-acre garden is located in Washington Park near the west end of the Midway Plaisance and directly in front of sculptor Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time.

The Davis Garden, now under construction and scheduled for completion in the summer of 2005, was designed by the noted Chicago landscape architect Peter Lindsey Schaudt. The garden’s plan, with a circular main section depressed into the ground, will frame the Fountain of Time on its west edge, while also providing an aesthetic echo with the Jackson Park Perennial Garden at the east end of the Midway Plaisance, east of Stony Island Ave.

The Davis Garden is another step in the revitalization efforts now taking place in Washington Park, a celebrated urban oasis designed in the late 1800s by the founder of American landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted. Completed and near-completed projects in Washington Park include a new mini-Arboretum, a fitness center, a lagoon restoration projected, and the restoration of the Reflecting Pool of Lorado Taft’s Fountain of Time.

The University of Chicago is the manager of the $800,000 project, and collaborated with the Chicago Park District to design and develop the Davis Garden. Funding was provided by the Chicago Park District, the Davis family, the Chicago Community Trust, the University of Chicago, and others. “This Davis Garden is an important addition to the new capital projects and programming currently underway in Washington Park,” said Timothy J. Mitchell, General Superintendent and CEO at the Chicago Park District. “We hope Washington Park and the Midway become even more of a bridge and commons, as envisioned by Olmsted, for the neighborhoods of the mid-south as well as a destination for all Chicagoans.”

This vision for Washington Park is one that the late Dr. Allison Davis would have shared. Davis was the John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, and one of the first African Americans granted tenure at an academic institution other than a historically black college or university. He spent almost his entire academic career in the former Department of Education at the University of Chicago, after receiving a doctorate in Anthropology from the University in 1942. At his death in 1983, he was John Dewey Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus. In 1994, the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring Davis as “one of the earliest challengers of intelligence testing based on cultural bias.”

Davis questioned the indiscriminate use of standardized intelligence tests and fought for the understanding of human potential beyond racial class and caste. His work helped support desegregation efforts and contributed significantly to contemporary thought on valuing the capabilities of youths from diverse backgrounds.

“Allison Davis made an enormous mark as a scholar and teacher in education, social anthropology and psychology, and he was also a powerful force for human understanding,” said Don Michael Randel, President of The University of Chicago. “This wonderful garden will serve our entire community and is a very fitting way to remember him and all his good works.”

Davis, who had earned an undergraduate degree summa cum laude from Williams College and an M.A. in Anthropology from Harvard University, was the first social scientist to carry out intensive comparative studies of the socialization and intelligence of middle-class and lower-class infants, children and adolescents and the first to make a full-length, social and anthropological study of both whites and blacks in Southern society. His many books included Children of Bondage and Deep South, among the most widely used research on African Americans; his highly influential Social-Class Influences upon Learning, Intelligence and Cultural Differences; and his final book, a psychological study of great African American leaders, Leadership, Love and Aggression.

Davis’s son, Allison S. Davis, who led the public-private initiative to create a fitting memorial to his namesake, said, “My father passed the site of this garden every day, crossing a race line from his African-American neighborhood in Woodlawn, where our family grew up, to his office at the University. Those who helped our family in this effort have created on my father’s walking path a peaceful space of natural beauty that truly honors his life.”

Individuals interested in contributing to this project or any of the ongoing Washington Park or Midway revitalization efforts should call Michelle Olson in the University of Chicago’s Office of Community and Government Affairs at 773-702-6815 for more information.
Last modified at 12:42 PM CST on Monday, October 25, 2004.

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