For the past 10 years, Patricia Davis has studied how African Americans have chronicled their lives before, during, and immediately after the Civil War.
In particular, she’s analyzed how black history museums have memorialized the experience of African Americans from the late 18th century to the late 19th century.
Now Davis plans to study African American women who belonged to black women’s clubs and public service organizations in the 20th century, including the National Council of Negro Women. Specifically, she’ll examine how women in the upper middle class helped women in the working class determine how they should portray themselves in public.
“My next book project is going to look at the history of civic and political discourse among African American elite as it relates to the public representation of African American women,” says Davis, a new associate professor of communication studies at Northeastern.
Davis has also examined how the depiction of African American women in advertisements has evolved over time. In a chapter for a book called Feminist Perspectives on Advertising, Davis argues that advertisements started to feature more diverse African American women only after African Americans started to accumulate more wealth in the late 1960s.
“Instead of seeing images like Aunt Jemima, which was the dominant image of African American women, you were starting to see women who were much more diverse in terms of body shape, skin color, and facial features,” she says.
Davis comes to Northeastern from Georgia State University, where she wrote the book Laying Claim: African American Cultural Memory and Southern Identity.
Davis first visited Northeastern in 2008 to work on her dissertation in the African American Studies Department and then returned to the university in the summer of 2017 to attend a geography workshop.
Now she hopes to stay put for awhile. She’s teaching a class this semester titled “Communication and Inclusion.”
“We look at the way issues of race, class, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, and other social categories are created through the media, through interpersonal communication, and through other aspects of communication,” she says.
Although she’s only been at Northeastern for a few weeks, Davis has already begun to forge connections with researchers across the university. She wants to work with the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Project in the School of Law, which investigates anti-civil rights violence and other miscarriages of justice that occurred in the United States between 1930 to 1970. She also wants to lead study abroad courses in Cuba and Brazil.
Davis is mom to two cats, Simba and Alex, both of whom accompanied her on her recent road trip from Atlanta to Boston. She also has a 23-year-old daughter, Joelle, a student at Georgia State University who she is hoping to convince to move to Boston. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and baking.
“I love watching cooking shows,” she says, laughing. “I watch the Cooking Channel and Food Network all the time.”
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