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Evelyn Davis Papers and Photographs

Call Number



1885-1982, inclusive
; 1940-1970, bulk


Davis, Evelyn


1 Linear Feet in 1 record carton.

Language of Materials

Materials are in English


Evelyn Davis (1906-1982) was an actress in theater, TV, and film beginning in 1933 and continuing throughout her life. She appeared in supporting roles in numerous Broadway and touring productions. Later in her career, she worked more steadily in television and film. Davis was a member of various theater associations, including Actors' Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild, and the Negro Actors Guild of America, for which she served as a member of the Executive Board and as Recording Secretary. The collection contains scripts, playbills, news clippings, and contracts from her various performances, as well as documents reflecting her organization memberships. Also included are personal correspondence and memorabilia, material on theater history, photographs, and a scrapbook.

Historical/Biographical Note

Evelyn Davis (1906-1982) was born and educated in New York City where she lived throughout her life. Before embarking on an acting career, Davis was a teacher, and later she worked as a model. In 1933 Davis joined the Hall Johnson Choir and appeared in Run Little Chillun!, a lyric drama by Hall Johnson. Her resume includes several Broadway plays: Happy Birthday and The Wisteria Trees with Helen Hayes, "Vicki" with Jose Ferrer, and "The Perfect Marriage" with Miriam Hopkins. Touring productions include Macbeth with Orson Welles and The Naked Genius with Gypsy Lee Rose. Davis continued to be cast in plays throughout the 1950s before venturing into minor roles in television and film. On television Davis appeared in the Omnibus production of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the NBC production of The Iron Gate. Her film credits include small roles in Shaft, "Nothing but a Man, Shaft's Big Score, and Final Cut.

Davis was also active in various theatrical organizations: Actors Equity Association (AEA), the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors (AFTRA), the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), and the Negro Actors Guild of America (NAG). Before her health began to fail, Davis was on the NAG-New York Branch Executive Board and also served as its Recording Secretary. In 1969, Davis was a delegate to SAG's Joint Equality Committee, which held a series of discussions on the issue of casting ethnic minorities in television commercials. Davis died on January 30, 1982 at Harlem Hospital in New York City.


Folders arranged alphabetically.

Scope and Content Note

The Evelyn Davis Papers and Photographs consists of Evelyn Davis's personal papers and memorabilia. Her extant papers reflect a life-long interest in the history of African-Americans in theater and film. The bulk of the collection is made up of scripts, playbills, and contract agreements from Davis's appearances in plays and television programs throughout the 1940s, '50s, and '60s. There are also papers from organizations to which Davis belonged, including a membership card from the Screen Actors Guild, a membership certificate from the Negro Actors Guild of America, and contracts from the Actors' Equity Association. The collection also contains letters, cards,and telegrams from family and friends, including actors with whom Davis worked. Illuminating Davis's interests are several collections of Negro spirituals, an essay on racial prejudice by Dr. Juan Rene Betancourt, an issue of Theater Arts entitled "The Negro in the American Theater," and a booklet, "The Way It Was," that commemorates African-American actors and actresses. The collection also includes two photograph albums that have been disassembled and one intact photograph album (largely black and white prints for all three), one disassembled scrapbook, and ninety loose black and white photographs ranging in size from 11x14 to 2x3 inches. Included in the photographs are signed headshots from other actors and actresses and stills of theater performances.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

The Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Archives has no information about copyright ownership for this collection and is not authorized to grant permission to publish or reproduce materials from it. Materials in this collection, which were created in 1885-1982, are expected to enter the public domain in 2053.

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:

Identification of item, date; Evelyn Davis Papers and Photographs; WAG 245; box number; folder number;
Tamiment Library/Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012, New York University Libraries.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials found in repository; provenance is unknown. The accession numbers associated with this collection are 1950.128, 1985.024 and NPA.2005.227.

Related Archival Materials

For more information about the Negro Actors Guild of America, see the Negro Actors Guild of America Records in the New York Public Library.

Collection processed by

Jessie Wilkerson, 2005; Edited by Bonnie Gordon to reflect the incorporation of nonprint materials, 2013.

About this Guide

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on 2023-08-20 16:37:11 -0400.
Using Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language: Description is in English.

Processing Information

Photographs were separated from this collection during initial processing and were established as a separate collection, the Evelyn Davis Photographs (PHOTOS 215). In 2013, the photograph collection was reincorporated into the Evelyn Davis Papers and Photographs.

Edition of this Guide

This version was derived from Davis, Evelyn.doc


Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012