Jerome Davis (sociologist)

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Jerome Davis

Jerome Dwight Davis

(1891-12-02)December 2, 1891
DiedNovember 19, 1979(1979-11-19) (aged 87)
EducationUnion Theological Seminary, Columbia University
Alma materOberlin College
Occupationinternational activist for peace and social reform, labor organizer, sociologist
Years active1913–1975
EmployerYMCA, Dartmouth, Yale, AFT, Promoting Enduring Peace
Known forAdvocacy for global peace, cooperation, labor and prisoner rights
Notable work
Behind Soviet Power (1946)

Jerome Davis, born Jerome Dwight Davis (December 2, 1891 – October 19, 1979), was an international activist for peace and social reform, labor organizer, and sociologist who founded Promoting Enduring Peace. Early in his life, he campaigned to reduce the workweek and as an advocate of organized labor.[1][2][3] [4]


Davis was born in Kyoto, Japan on December 2, 1891 to Jerome Dean Davis and Frances Hooper. His father helped found Doshisha University and then taught there. Davis spent his childhood in Japan.[2][3][4]

In 1904, he came to the US. He attended Newton High School in Newton, Massachusetts and Oberlin Academy. In 1913, he graduated from Oberlin College, where he had president of the local Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). He spent a year in community service at the Minneapolis Civic and Commerce Association, through which he helped obtain a half holiday for workers in some larger local factories.[2]


In 1914, Davis started a doctorate simultaneously at the Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University. He financed his studies through work. He performed social work, worked as assistant at Broadway Tabernacle, and lectured for the City of New York. During the summer of 1915, he worked as private secretary to Sir Wilfred Grenfell in Labrador, Canada, and helped him in a wide array of services, from arresting felons to extracting teeth. In the fall of 1915, he took leave and to travel to Europe and work with prisoners of war (POWs), which became a lifelong interest.[1][2][3]

YMCA (Russia)[edit]

Davis spent 1916–1918 in Russia. He was sent to Russia to work with German POWs. He also set up YMCA centers for Russian soldiers. Upon American entry into World War I in 1917, he was made head of all YMCA work in Russia. For the US Government, he oversaw distribution of more than a million copies of President Wilson's "14 Points" message to German soldiers. He opposed US military intervention in Russia in favor of working with the new Soviet Union. During the 1920s, he returned to Russia several times and continued to advocate for Soviet cooperation. His chart of the construction of the Soviet government was published in Workers' Dreadnought.[5] By 1920, however, he had returned to the States, finished at the Union Theological Seminary and in 1922 obtained a doctorate in sociology from Columbia University.[1][2][4]


From 1921 to 1924, Davis was an associate professor of Sociology at Dartmouth College. There, he advocated for organized labor. He investigated and published findings on a strike in Manchester, New Hampshire. The Federal Coal Commission then asked him to investigate West Virginia coal mines. He also served as chairman of the Social Service Commission of the Congregational Church.[1][2][3][4]

In 1924, he founded the Jerome Davis Research fund to support students at Oberlin who "worked with labor" to facilitate "mutual understanding and cooperation in the field of industry."[6]

From 1924 to 1936, Davis was appointed a Gilbert L. Stark professor of "practical philanthropy" at the Yale Divinity School. He helped organize labor forums for the New Haven Trades Council. He developed labor ideals adopted by the Congregational and Christian Churches of America. He chaired the Social Service Commission of Protestant churches in Connecticut. From 1924 to 1936, he also chaired the Legislative Commission on Jails of the State of Connecticut for twelve years and used a $50,000 Federal grant to Connecticut prisoner records, with findings published in 1932.[1][2][3][4]

In 1928, Davis was a member of the American Society for Cultural Relations with Russia, part of VOKS (Russian "Vsesoiuznoe Obshchestvo Kul'turnoi Sviazi s zagranitsei" — Всесоюзное общество культурной связи с заграницей, All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries).[7]

His failure to receive tenure at Yale caused controversy, as it was widely believed to be caused by his socialism. The National Education Association, the American Federation of Labor, and the American Association of University Professors investigated the case. Yale denied permission to US Supreme Court Justice Ferdinand Pecora and US Senator Gerald P. Nye to speak on campus for fear of their support for Davis.[2][3][4][8][9][10]

American Federation of Teachers[edit]

From 1936 to 1939, Davis served as president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). During his second term (1936–1937), Davis helped lead the AFT out of the AFL and into the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO).[1][2][11]

In the late 1930s, Davis (along with Denis Nowell Pritt, Upton Sinclair, Bertolt Brecht, Lion Feuchtwanger, and others) defended the Moscow Trials from critics. He claimed that as a former Chairman of the Legislative Commission on Jails in the State of Connecticut, he had seen hundreds of criminals bluntly confess based on overwhelming evidence against them, and he compared that with the reactions of the Moscow Trials defendants. He, however, noted that "there is a lot of false testimony in a trial of this kind."[12]

For the rest of his life, he worked on and off as visiting professor at colleges and universities. During 1940 elections, Davis served as delegate from Connecticut to the Democratic National Convention. During World War II, he headed YMCA POW efforts in Canada. From 1943 to 1944, he served as a correspondent in the USSR. In 1949, he led a peace mission to Europe.[2]

From 1939 to 1945, Davis was involved in a libel lawsuit he filed (see below).

Promoting Enduring Peace[edit]

In 1952, Davis founded the Promoting Enduring Peace, Inc., in which he remained active through 1974.[1] The group issued reprints of articles in pamphlet form that opposed militarism in the mid-1940s and formally formed the organization in 1952. As its first director, he organized many trips to the USSR during the Cold War. In 1957, his group met for two hours with Nikita Khrushchev. In 1970, his group met with Alexei Kosygin. In 1973 and 1975, he led similar trips for educators to China.[1][2]

The Gandhi Peace Award was first proposed by him, on March 13, 1959, and presented to the first recipient, Eleanor Roosevelt , the following year.


Davis supported world peace and international cooperation with all nations, which included working with the USSR and China. Most scholars recognize that his support included admiration for Communism and its leaders. Thus, scholar Judy Kutulas writes that Davis found Joseph Stalin an impressive intellectual and one useful during a revolutionary period yet carefully describes him as a non-communist who supported the USSR as an "inveterate front supporter."[13]

His efforts earned him lifelong opposition. In 1961, the Church League of America wrote:

Jerome Davis, who was kicked out of office in the American Federation of Teachers because of his long pro-Soviet, pro-Communist record, has been identified in numerous pages of Government hearings as one of the top Communist Front joiners in the United States. Davis, according to Biddle, had decided that the Fish Committee of 1930 investigating Communism had been "far more dangerous to liberty and freedom than the pitiful handful of Communists in the United States ever has been.[14]

Of all his publications, Behind Soviet Power stirred up the most attention, at least among anti-communists. Ilya Ehrenburg, a "Soviet newspaperman," wrote its forward.[15] As the libertarian The Freeman magazine described in 1951 (with bolding added):

There is that strong group in the Methodist Church led by Bishop Ward. Many have belonged to every subversive group in the nation. They love Soviet Russia; they apologize for her all the time...
The Methodist Church is the largest of the Protestant denominations. Its Federation for Social Action publishes a Social Questions Bulletin, which goes to every Methodist clergyman.
The Federation has among its members half the bishops of the church. It includes the heads of their largest theological schools, editors of their papers, heads of various important boards, ministers of their largest churches. To date none of them has been heard to object to what their Federation says.
Take Jerome Davis, who apologizes for Russia every day and has backed many organizations which have been named as Communist fronts. His book Behind Soviet Power is one of the most outspoken apologies for Russia yet published. It was sent free of charge to more than 23,000 Methodist clergymen. With it went a letter stating that it was a gift from the Methodist Federation and adding that every clergyman must read it. There are some queer things in that book, as odd as some statements that Davis made when he spoke to the National Convention of the Methodists. Read them and wonder!
Soviet concentration camps, according to Davis, are "simply places to keep criminals." On the jailing of innocent people, the shooting of those who oppose Russia in the slave nations, Davis has this to say: "If Russia sends innocent people to concentration camps and tightens up civil liberties, it's the fault of the American government." Just how is not revealed. He further says: "In the last thirty years the Soviet Union has a record for peace the equal of the United States." Again, "Back of all our fear is the demonstrated success in planned economy, first in the Soviet Union, then Poland and Czechoslovakia." I wonder what Davis has read lately?[16]

He defended his reputation in a successful libel lawsuit.

Libel suit against Saturday Evening Post (1939-1945)[edit]

From 1939 to 1945, Davis sued for libel against the Curtis Publishing, owners of Saturday Evening Post, then the most widely circulated magazine in the US. On September 2, 1939, in an article entitled "Communist Wreckers in American Labor," Benjamin Stolberg, a reporter for Curtis's Saturday Evening Post called Davis a "Communist and Stalinist" and said that the American Federation of Teachers was "the only AFL union controlled by the Communists" (at a time when Davis headed the AFT). Davis hired ACLU co-founder and nationally known lawyer Arthur Garfield Hays. Stolberg hired Louis Waldman, an "Old Guard" Socialist and anti-communist labor lawyer. The case went before the New York Supreme Court, with Justice John F. Carew presiding.[1][13][17]


On December 4, 1939, Davis brought a $150,000 libel suit in Manhattan against Curtis Publishing and Stolberg.[18] Davis testified that, while in Russia, Stalin admitted to him that the USSR supported the CPUSA.[19][20] He also testified that AFL president William Green had asked him to take "decisive action against the communistic influences" in AFT's Teachers Union Local 5 of New York.[21] He admitted that in the past he had not done enough to fight communism in American labor unions.[22] Dr. Sherwood Eddy, former YMCA president, testified that Davis was a "loyal American who has always attacked the evils of communism, as I have."[17] As proof of damage done, National Youth Administration (NYA) head Aubrey Williams testified that he had refused to hire Davis as NYA's educational director based on the Saturday Evening Post article.[23] Hays rested the case for Davis by calling two last witnesses, Reverend Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick of Riverside Church (New York) and Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise of the American Jewish Congress. Dr. Rev. Fosdick stated, based on a 29-year acquaintance, that "Jerome Davis couldn't be a Communist if he tried." Rabbi Wise stated, based on more than 30 years of acquaintance, that Davis had "never, never" been sympathetic to communism.[24]


Stolberg testified that the late Dr. Henry R. Linville, who left the AFT to form the Teachers Guild, considered Davis a communist or fellow traveler.[25] The defense then introduced evidence from former CPUSA head Earl Browder, AFL president William Green, and others to document how Stolberg developed the allegedly libelous article. Waldman read from a book by Browder that showed the religiosity does not preclude communism. The AFL letter called on the expulsion of communists from the AFT, implying that Davis failed to do so, which resulted in the 1935 split between the AFT and Teachers Guild.[26] The defense argued that Davis had a standing reputation as a communist or sympathizer. Former Saturday Evening Post editor William W. Stout testified to that effect; AFT vice president John D. Connors stated that Davis followed the Communist party line.[26] AFL vice president Matthew Woll said that even some communists considered Davis a communist,[27] while Stolberg testified that he still considered Davis a communist.[28] American Mercury editor Eugene Lyons testified that passages from Davis's book The New Russia (1933) showed a "type of Soviet propaganda" he called a "whitewash of terror." He also stated that in 1939 Davis had the reputation of "a fellow-traveling Communist."[29] Georgetown University president Dr. Edmund A. Walsh testified that Davis "accepts the ultimate objective of communism and belongs psychologically and morally to the group that advocates it," though he falls short of 100% advocacy because he is "not prepared to go the last ten per cent". After hearing Curtis Publishing attorney Bruce Bromley read from several books by Davis, Dr. Walsh upped his estimate to "95 per cent" and then "96 per cent."[30]

Rebuttal and verdict[edit]

Former AFT secretary-treasurer Florence Curtis Hanson stated that Davis was not a communist but instead "motivated by humanitarianism."[30] Rev. Dr. Halford E. Luccock, a professor of Homiletics at Yale Divinity School, testified that Davis had criticized the USSR for "disregard of the human values of free speech and its intolerance of religion." He affirmed that Davis was "against the use of violence and terrorism" and no "Stalinist, Communist or labor wrecker." Davis shared letters of advocacy from the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church for services rendered to the church.[31] With the court's acceptance, attorney Hays then added $100,000, bringing the total suit to $250,000.[32]

On the morning of June 8, 1943, Hays summarized Davis's lawsuit as a "patriotic service." That afternoon, just before deliberation began, Judge Carew advised the jury that, under the laws of New York State, "no man has a legal right to be a Communist."[33] On June 9, 1943, a New York Supreme Court discharged the jury for failing to reach a verdict, and Justice Carew ordered the jury not discuss their deliberations.[34] On June 14, 1943, New York Supreme Court Justice Louis A. Valente denied a second motion for immediate retrial and set October 1, 1943, as date to assign retrial action.[35]


On January 18, 1945, Davis settled with Curtis Publishing and Stolberg in court for $11,000 of his $250,000 libel suit before Supreme Court Justice Ferdinand Pecora.[36]

Personal and death[edit]

Davis was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s.

He had one daughter, Patricia Davis, and one adopted son, Wilfred Grenfell Davis.[1]

He died at home in Olney, Maryland, aged 87, on October 19, 1979.[1][2]


There are two major sets of his papers:

  • University of Oregon holds the "Jerome Davis Papers, 1915-1963," which include correspondence, speeches, articles, book drafts, and manuscripts[3]
  • FDR Library holds "Papers of Jerome Davis: 1912 - 1965," which includes subject files plus speech and writing files[2]


Davis wrote more than 20 books and numerous articles, including:[1][2][37]

  • Russian Immigrant (New York: Macmillan, 1922)
  • Russians and Ruthenians in America; Bolsheviks or Brothers? (New York: George H. Doran, 1922)
  • Christian Fellowship among the Nations; A Discussion Course Which Will Help Groups of Young People and Adults to do Straight Thinking on Our Greatest Problem with Roy B. Chamberlin (Boston and Chicago: Pilgrim Press, 1925)
  • Adventuring in World Cooperation (Boston and Chicago: United Society of Christian Endeavor, 1925)
  • Business and the Church with introduction by Jerome Davis (New York and London: Century Co., 1926)
  • Christianity and Social Adventuring edited and with introduction by Jerome Davis (New York and London: Century Co., 1927)
  • Labor Speaks for Itself on Religion; A Symposium of Labor Leaders Throughout the World edited and with an introduction by Jerome Davis (New York: Macmillan, 1929)
  • Contemporary Social Movements (New York and London: Century Co., 1930)
  • Introduction to Sociology edited by Jerome Davis and Harry Elmer Barnes (Boston: DC Heath & Co., 1931)
  • New Russia between the First and Second Five Year Plans edited by Jerome Davis (New York: John Day, 1933)
  • Report of the Legislative Commission on Jails with a Special Study on the Jail Population of Connecticut (Hartford, 1934)
  • Capitalism and its Culture (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1935)
  • Labor Problems in America with Emanuel Stein (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1940)
  • Behind Soviet Power; Stalin and the Russians (New York: Readers' Press, 1946)
  • Character Assassination with introduction by Robert Maynard Hutchins (New York: Philosophical Library, 1950)
  • Peace, War and You with introduction by Clarence E. Pickett (New York: H. Schuman, 1952)
  • Religion in Action with an introduction by E. Stanley Jones (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956)
  • On the Brink with Hugh B. Hester (New York: L. Stuart, 1959)
  • Citizens of the World (New York: Citadel Press, 1961)
  • World Leaders I Have Known (New York: Citadel Press, 1963)
  • Disarmament: A World View (New York: Citadel Press, 1964)
  • New Russia Between the First and Second Five Year Plans (Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1968)
  • Russian Immigrant (New York: Arno Press, 1969)


  • "If democracy is to endure, capitalism as we know it must go." (From Capitalism and Its Culture, 1935, p. 519.)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Waggoner, Walter H. (24 October 1979). "Jerome Davis, Educator, 87, Dies; Active in World Peace Movement". New York Times.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Davis, Jerome". FDR Library at Marist University. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Jerome Davis papers, 1914-1963". University of Oregon. 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Davis, Jerome, 1891-1979". Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC). Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  5. ^ Davis, Jerome (1919). "Chart of the Construction of the Soviet Government in Russia". Workers' Dreadnought. Vi: 1463.
  6. ^ "Awards Oberlin College". Oberlin College & Conservatory. Retrieved 15 August 2010.
  7. ^ "Society for Cultural Relations". 1928. Retrieved 27 December 2013.
  8. ^ "Yale Condemned for Ousting Davis: Professors' Council Scores Its Action as a 'Violation of Academic Tenure'", New York Times, 23 May 1937
  9. ^ "N.E.A. Hits Yale for Ousting Davis: Report, Adopted Unanimously, Says University Gave 'No Valid Reasons' for Action". New York Times. 1 July 1937.
  10. ^ "Yale U. is Accused of Forbidding Nye and Pecora to Talk". Chicago Tribune. 7 May 1937. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  11. ^ "Teachers Vote a Union Poll on Joining CIO: AF of L Faction Loses Convention Test". Chicago Tribune. 27 August 1937. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  12. ^ Hollander, Paul (2004). Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. pp. 162, 165.
  13. ^ a b Kutulas, Judy (1995). The Long War: The Intellectual People's Front and Anti-Stalinism, 1930-1940. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. pp. 49 (Stalin), 134 (non-communist), 202 (libel). Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  14. ^ A Manual for Survival: A Counter-Subversive Study Course. Wheaton, Illinois: Church League of America. 1961. p. 83. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  15. ^ Hansen, Harry (14 July 1946). "Books: Brooks Atkinson on Russia". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  16. ^ Dutton, Charles J. (31 December 1951). "Let the Clergy Speak!". Freeman: 211. Retrieved 16 July 2017. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. ^ a b "Dr. Davis Defened by Sherwood Eddy: Former Teachers Union Head 'Always Attacked Evils of Communism,' Jury Hears". New York Times. 20 May 1943.
  18. ^ "Libel Suit Asks $150,000: Head of Federation of Teachers Sues on Magazine Article". New York Times. 5 December 1939.
  19. ^ "Stalin is Quoted on Aid to US Reds". New York Times. 15 May 1943.
  20. ^ "Reveals Stalin Said He Would Assist US Reds: Teacher Tells Court". Chicago Tribune. 15 May 1943. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  21. ^ "Dr. Davis Testifies in His Libel Action". New York Times. 18 May 1943.
  22. ^ "Davis Admits Failure to Fight Union Reds: But Court Points Out That This Does Not Prove He Is One". New York Times. 19 May 1943.
  23. ^ "NYA Head Testifies n Davis Libel Suit: Aubrey Williams Says He No Longer Could Hire Educator After Latter Was Called Red HAD PROMISED HIM A JOB Court Denounces Newspaper Reports of Case and Asks That 'Discussion' Cease". New York Times. 21 May 1943.
  24. ^ "Fosdick, SS Wise Testify for Davis: Minister Says Plaintiff in Libel Suit 'Couldn't Be a Communist if He Tried'". New York Times. 22 May 1943.
  25. ^ "Stolberg on Stand in Davis Libel Case: Writer of Article for Which Teacher Asks $150,000 Tells Why He Called Him a Red". New York Times. 25 May 1943.
  26. ^ a b "Browder Is Quoted in Davis Libel Case: Stolberg Says Communist's Books Were Part of His Basis for Calling Teacher a Red". New York Times. 26 May 1943.
  27. ^ "Woll Links Davis to Ranks of Reds: Even 'Some Communists' Thought Educator Was Party Member". New York Times. 28 May 1943.
  28. ^ "Davis Still a Red in Stolberg View: Writer Testifies Nothing Said at Libel Trial Has Caused Him to Change Opinion". New York Times. 29 May 1943.
  29. ^ "Soviet Leanings Seen in Book by Dr. Davis: Former Moscow Correspondent Points to 'Omissions' in Work". New York Times. 2 June 1943.
  30. ^ a b "Dr. Davis Classed As 96% Red Backer: Catholic Educator First Says Union Leader Is 10% Short of Favoring Communism". New York Times. 3 June 1943.
  31. ^ "Dr. Davis Not a Red, Says Yale Educator: Plaintiff in Libel Suit Is Described as a Liberal". New York Times. 4 June 1943.
  32. ^ "$100,000 More Asked in Davis Libel Suit: Hays Reveals Court Granted Motion to Seek Higher Damages". New York Times. 8 June 1943.
  33. ^ "Davis Libel Case Goes to the Jury: No Man Has Legal Right to Be a Communist". New York Times. 9 June 1943.
  34. ^ "Jury Discharged in Davis Libel Suit". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 10 June 1943. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  35. ^ "New Davis Please Denied: Justice Valente Acts on Second Motion for Libel Retrial". Brooklyn Daily Eagle. 15 June 1943. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  36. ^ "Libel Suit Settled: Dr. Jerome Davis Accepts $11, 000 in His $150,000 Suit". New York Times. 19 January 1945.
  37. ^ "search on "Davis, Jerome"". Library of Congress. Retrieved 16 July 2017.

External sources[edit]

  • Jerome Davis Case (Chicago: American Federation of Teachers, 1937)