Meet the Professor: Bonnie Davis Bonnie Davis is a visiting professor of journalism at Washington and Lee University
Bonnie Davis joined the Washington and Lee University faculty this term as a visiting professor of journalism. She graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a bachelor’s degree in English and earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan -Ann Arbor.
Prior to working in academia, Davis spent nearly 20 years as an editor, copy editor and reporter with the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She also worked with the Richmond News Leader, covering areas including education, urban planning, county government, business, arts, entertainment and fashion.
Davis served as the Greensboro News & Record-Janice Bryant Howroyd Endowed Professor of Journalism at North Carolina A&T. She has also worked in the journalism department at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Hampton and Norfolk State Universities.
Professor Davis is currently working on a book about the emergence of African American women journalists in mainstream U.S newsrooms after the civil rights era of the 1960s.
What first attracted you to Washington and Lee University?
The fact that W&L is in a region of Virginia in which I’ve not spent much time since I moved to the Commonwealth exactly 40 years ago. I also wanted to experience teaching at a smaller university. In addition, I’d always heard that W&L has a well-regarded journalism program, and that evidence was seen when I worked with two of its journalism graduates: Bruce Potter and Mike Allen at the Times-Dispatch.
What are you teaching this fall?
I am teaching Public Relations Writing.
What are your research interests?
African American women journalists, civil rights, women’s rights, African American artists and the Great Migration of African Americans from the American South to points east, west and north.
Aside from teaching, what’s something that you’re passionate about? What do you do for fun?
In 2016, I created the Bonnie Newman Davis Institute of Media and Culture Inc., a nonprofit that focuses on media programming and a summer media camp for middle and high school students. I also grow house plants and attempt to grow things in my back yard. Beyond that I enjoy traveling and hope to visit Italy and Japan one day.
What is your favorite movie or book? Why?
“The Best Man” because it reminds me of my college days and time-tested friendships; “Waiting to Exhale” because of its liberating nature and wonderful actors; “Shawshank Redemption” (to me it says keep your head down and eyes open until you manage to break free); and “Imitation of Life,” the first race-based movie that I recall watching as a child. It continues to resonate with me because its themes – independent working women, skin color, etc. – remain unresolved in many aspects of our society.
As a student, what was the best piece of advice you were given?
From my late mentor Sam Adams, a journalist who covered the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights icons and was a professor at the University of Kansas-Lawrence for decades: “Don’t be afraid to leave home for your career. One day you will be able to afford to fly home anytime you desire. Or you can fly your parents to visit you.”
Share a fun fact about yourself.
I would love to own and drive a Winnebago with no particular destination in mind. Or a beach house.
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