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Davis, Frank Marshall(1905–1987) - Chronology, Southern Discomfort, Posthumous Writings

black atlanta davis’s scott


Born in Arkansas City, Kansas on December 31


Attends Friends College; writes his first poem


Matriculates at Kansas State


Moves to Chicago; first job as journalist at the Whip


Edits the Atlanta World , Atlanta, Georgia


Black Cat Press publishes Black Man’s Verse ; becomes executive editor for the Negro Associated Press


Black Cat Press publishes I Am the American Negro ; receives Julius Rosenwald Fellowship


Publishes Through Sepia Eyes


Publishes 47th Street Poems ; moves to Hawaii


Publishes Awakening and Other Poems




Autobiography Livin’ the Blues: Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet published


Black Moods: Collected Poems published

Southern Discomfort

From 1931 to 1934, Davis spent his time in Atlanta, Georgia, coaxed there by the founder of the Atlanta World , W. A. Scott. Scott founded the paper in 1928 and by 1931 owned papers in Birmingham, Alabama and in Chattanooga and Memphis, Tennessee. Davis’s financial situation and the financial solvency of Atlanta World convinced him that he could survive just as other blacks did living in the South. Scott offered him a good salary of $25 a week with a promise of $35.

When Davis arrived at the office of the Atlanta World , he found the reporters inexperienced. As editor, he spent countless hours rewriting articles and recruiting staff from Chicago. Within a year Scott requested that Davis publish a daily. The idea both intimidated and exhilarated Davis for he would become the first editor of an African American daily. By contacting the Associated Negro Press, worldwide sources, and cartoonist and other features, Davis produced within a month a paper which satisfied Scott. Subscriptions increased especially since Davis pointed out to black Atlantans the need to support a newspaper that dignified their existence unlike the white news establishment that referred to them as “darkies” with a large coverage of black crime.

In Atlanta, Davis was introduced to black college football and the battle of the bands of the black schools in the Atlanta University complex. This music substituted for the live jazz and blues performances of Chicago. As for his poetry, his creative writing stopped for two years and then revived when Frances Manning of Chicago took an interest in his poem, “Congo,” and inspired him to write. They exchanged poems and critiques of them and shared a common interest in jazz music and a bohemian life style.

Davis’s Atlanta work came to a close after Scott was murdered. According to Davis, Cornelius Scott, who assumed responsibility for the paper, lacked vision and the spunk of his brother. Then too, Davis felt the negative effects of living in the South. Chicago was still Davis’s favorite city and Manning was there, inspiring him to publish a first book of poetry.

From 1935 to 1948, Davis life took an unprecedented fertile turn. He published four books of poetry. His poetry called attention to U.S. racism. Davis received critical acclaim for Black Man’s Verse , published in the summer of 1935, and for his other publications: I Am the American Negro (1937), Through Sepia Eyes (1938), and 47th Street Poems (1948). The Detroit race riot and a lynching in Missouri were defining moments in his life and his poetry. “For the first time in my life,” he writes in his memoirs, “I would quit being a loner. No matter how consuming my wrath, I could go nowhere by myself. My poetry was primarily a one-man protest.” Davis joined and supported the efforts of numerous organizations fighting racism. He helped with rent strikes, became vice-chairman of the Chicago Civil Liberties Committee and lectured at Northwestern University.

In 1935 Davis became executive editor for the Negro Associated Press, where he remained until he left for Hawaii in 1948. During that time, he showed talent in his new creative undertaking—photography with prints selected for national and international exhibitions—and became one of the first teachers of jazz music in the country. Davis returned from Hawaii in 1973 for a poetry reading tour. He died in 1987.

Posthumous Writings

In 1992, five years after Davis’s death, the University of Wisconsin Press at Madison published Livin’ the Blues: Memoirs of a Black Journalist and Poet , edited by John Edgar Tidwell. Davis had begun writing his memoirs in the late sixties and early seventies from Hawaii. Davis’s life as a journalist, political activist, as a jazz teacher and critic, and his connections and conversations with some of the most important figures of his time in politics, literature, entertainment, and sports, suggest the significance of his memoirs. Included in Livin’ the Blues are excerpts of Davis’s autobiographical work (under the pen name Bob Green) That Incredible Waikiki Jungle , which was written in the late seventies and chronicles his life in Hawaii. Davis’s Black Moods: Collected Poems was published in 2002.

The forgotten journalist, poet, political activist, jazz aficionado, critic, and historian claims his place among African American and American writers. His writings provide a window on twentieth-century arts and politics.

Davis, Gordon J.(1941–) - Lawyer, business executive, Chronology [next] [back] Davis, Daniel Webster(1862–1913) - Minister, educator, writer, Well-Known Lecturer, Chronology, Becomes a Poet

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