David Brion Davis (born February 16, 1927) is an American intellectual and cultural historian, and a leading authority on slavery and abolition in the Western world. He is a Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University, and founder and director emeritus of Yale’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition.
Davis has authored or edited 17 books. His books emphasize religious and ideological links among material conditions, political interests, and new political values. Ideology, in his view, is not a deliberate distortion of reality or a façade for material interests; rather, it is the conceptual lens through which groups of people perceive the world around them. He is also a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books.Davis received the 1967 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction, and the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Barack Obama in 2014 for "reshaping our understanding of history." He also received the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award for General Nonfiction, the 2015 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for lifetime achievement in contributions to public understanding of racism and appreciation of cultural diversity, and the 2015 Biennial Coif Book Award, a top honor from the Association of American Law Schools for the leading law-related book published in 2013 and 2014.
After serving on the Cornell University faculty for 14 years, Davis taught at Yale from 1970 to 2001. He has held one-year appointments as the Harold Vyvyan Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at Oxford University (1969-1970), at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, and as the first French-American Foundation Chair in American Civilization at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris.