Adrienne Davis holds a dual appointment as William M. Van Cleve Professor of Law and in the College of Arts & Sciences she holds courtesy appointments in the departments of African and African-American Studies; History; and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies. Davis is a graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, where she served on the Executive Committee of the Yale Law Journal.
Professor Davis served as the Vice Provost for Faculty and Institutional Diversity from 2010 – 2021. From 2015 until 2017 she chaired the University’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion, which was charged with designing a university-wide plan for diversity. She worked closely with stakeholders at the University on a range of institutional policies, initiatives, and programs, including ones that support students and staff.
As a teacher and scholar Davis focuses on “the law of daily life,” or how law regulates and affects people’s daily interactions, decisions, and identities. She teaches Trusts & Estates, Contracts, and a variety of legal theory seminars, including ones on Slavery & the Law, Feminist Legal Theory, and Law & Literature. At the University of North Carolina, she received the law school’s Frederick B. McCall Award for Teaching Excellence.
Davis is renowned for her scholarship and teaching on gender and race relations; theories of justice and reparations; feminist and critical race theory; and law and popular culture. She has written extensively on the gendered and private law dimensions of American slavery, the legal regulation of intimacy, and how culture and law converge to distribute justice. She has published articles in the Stanford Law Review, the Columbia Law Review, and the California Law Review, as well as numerous other articles and book chapters. She is the co-editor of the book, Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America (NYU Press). At Washington University she has convened three special issues for the law school’s Journal of Law & Policy. Davis founded and is co-director of the Law, Identity & Culture Initiative and is the inaugural director of the University’s Center for the Study of Race, Ethnicity & Equity. She also directed the Black Sexual Economies Project at the law school’s Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Work and Social Capital from 2009-2013. She is the past recipient of a Bellagio Fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation, as well as two research grants from the Ford Foundation on black women and labor, and women, slavery, sexuality, and religion.
Davis is active in her professional associations. She is currently a member of the AALS Executive Committee for Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. She is a past Chair of the Law & Humanities Section of the American Association of Law Schools and served on the organization’s Membership Review Committee. She has been a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians for many years, and for two years chaired the Littleton-Griswold Prize Committee of the American Historical Association.
Finally, Davis is deeply involved in several St. Louis civic institutions. She is Secretary to the Art Museum’s Board of Commissioners and also serves on the Board of Trustees of Opera Theatre St. Louis, the St. Louis Fashion Fund, Our Little Haven, december literary magazine, and the St. Louis Visionary Awards. She is a member of the Links, Inc., St. Louis Chapter, and for two years chaired their Arts Facet.
- J.D., Yale Law School
- B.A., Yale University
- Trusts & Estates
- Slavery & the Law
- Areas of Expertise
- Private Law (Contracts, Trusts & Estates, Property)
- Feminist Legal Theory
- Reparations and the Law
- Slavery and the Law
- Adrienne D. Davis, Regulating Sex Work: Assimilationism, Erotic Exceptionalism and the Challenge of Intimate Labor, 103 California Law Review 1195 (2015)
- Adrienne D. Davis, Bad Girls of Art and Law: Abjection, Power, and Sexuality Exceptionalism in (Kara Walker’s) Art and (Janet Halley’s) Law, 23 Yale Journal of Law & Feminism 1 (2011)
- Adrienne D. Davis, Film Review: Masculinity & Interracial Intimacy in Star Trek and Gran Torino, 32 New Political Science 163 (2010)
- Adrienne D. Davis, Regulating Polygamy: Intimacy, Default Rules, and Bargaining for Equality, 110 Columbia Law Review 1955 (2010)
- A.A. Aiyetoro & Adrienne D. Davis, Historic and Modern Social Movements for Reparations: The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) and Its Antecedents, 16 Texas Wesleyan Law Review 687 (2010) (Symposium on Lawyers of Color)
- Robert Chang & Adrienne D. Davis, Making Up is Hard to Do: An Epistolary Exchange on Race, Gender & Sexual Orientation in the Law School Classroom, 33 Harvard Journal of Gender and Law 1 (2010)
- Adrienne D. Davis, The ‘”Sexual Economy” of American Slavery, reprinted in Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies (reprint) (eds. S.M. James, F.S. Foster, & B. Guy-Sheftall), The Feminist Press, CUNY (2009)
- Activity and Affiliations
- Executive Committee Member, AALS Section on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (2017-present)
- Littleton-Griswold Prize Committee of American Historical Association (awarded to best book in any subject on history of American law and society) (Chair, 2016, 2015; Member, 2014)
- Member, AALS Membership Review Committee (2015-2018)
- Distinguished Lecturer, Organization of American Historians (2004-present)
- St. Louis Art Museum (2017-present Board of Commissioners; 2012-2017 Board of Trustees)
- Opera Theatre St. Louis (2015-present Board of Directors)
- The Visionary Awards (2017-present Board of Directors)
- Our Little Haven (2016-present Board of Directors)
- december Literary Magazine (2016-present Board of Directors)
- Fashion Fund (2017-present Board of Directors)
- Laumeier Sculpture Park (2011-2018 Board of Trustees)
- Honors and Awards
- November 2016 Washington University Founders Day Distinguished Faculty Award
- February 2015 Outlaw (Washington University School of Law LGBT association), President’s Award for Contributions to LGBTQ Diversity & Inclusion
- February 2014 Black Law Student Association Inaugural President’s Award
- May 2004 University of North Carolina School of Law, Frederick B. McCall Award for Teaching Excellence (awarded by graduating class)
- May 2017 Woman of Achievement, Arts Advocacy
- March 2013 Women’s Justice Award, Legal Scholar
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