Bonnie Newman Davis has been a journalist for more than four decades. But long before she understood the meaning of journalism, Davis, at age three or four, was writing stories “out loud” by recounting the exploits of her maternal grandparents’ 10 children – five boys, five girls.
Then in their teens and early twenties, her aunts and uncles lived in a rural part of North Carolina where tobacco reigned. When not attending school or picking tobacco, the Chavis siblings enjoyed the same pastimes as did most young people their age—dressing up for proms or social outings, listening to soulful music on the radio, and driving or riding in fast cars.
That was in the early 1960s. Davis’ childhood recitations regarding her large, extended family that she visited each summer offered few hints about the civil and social unrest then swirling across America. Indeed, the famous sit-ins at a Woolworth’s lunch counter was within walking distance of her home in Greensboro, North Carolina. Yet, aside from whispers of “curfews” or muffled voices from television newscasters, little about the sit-ins was discussed in Davis’ home.
Years later, while in college at North Carolina A&T State University, Davis became more fully aware of the civil rights movement and how, based on the findings of a 1968 Kerner Commission report, much of it tied in with the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy years earlier when Davis was in sixth grade.
It also was at A&T that Davis, an English major, wrote her first article after taking a journalism course during her junior year. Her professor published the article in the student newspaper, The A&T Register, and it later was picked up by the local Black newspaper, The Carolina Peacemaker. Other articles followed, along with a summer internship at the Wilmington Star News in Wilmington, N.C.
When Davis graduated from A&T in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in English, she not only understood journalism’s meaning and power, she was eager to learn more. A Dow Jones Newspaper Fund internship that summer in Louisville, Kentucky was followed by graduate school at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, where she earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1980.
After graduate school, Davis became a reporter and editor for the Richmond News Leader and, later, the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Richmond, Virginia. Her areas of coverage included education, government, urban affairs, business, and arts and culture. She also has worked for newspapers in Kentucky, North Carolina, and Michigan, as well as for MSNBC’s thegrio.com and BlackAmericaWeb.com.
Additionally, Davis has served as a journalism professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and North Carolina A&T State University. At NCA&T, Davis held the Greensboro News & Record-Janice Bryant Howroyd Endowed Professorship. Other academic appointments have included Hampton, Norfolk State, St. Augustine’s, Virginia Union, and Washington and Lee universities.
In 2011, Davis was named Educator of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, and she has received several awards and recognition for her work, including a 2007 NABJ Ethel Payne Fellowship to report in Ghana, West Africa.
In 2016, Davis founded the BND Institute of Media and Culture, Inc., a nonprofit organization that presents programs and events focused on African American culture and news media. Her institute also sponsors a summer media camp for middle and high school students.
In May 2022, Davis became managing editor of the Richmond Free Press, a 30-year-old Black-owned newspaper in Richmond, Virginia.
In October 2022, Davis was inducted into the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication Hall of Fame at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. The award “honors the pioneers who helped pave the way in Journalism at North Carolina A&T and beyond.”
Throughout her career, Davis has been an active leader, member and participant in several civic, social and professional organizations. As a longtime member of the National Association of Black Journalists, she twice formed chapters of the Richmond (Va.) Association of Black Journalists, and served as a regional director and board member for the NABJ. Additionally, Davis has served in local and national leadership positions for the Society of Professional Journalists. Her current civic and social memberships include the Richmond Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Original Circle of Friends, a philanthropic organization that raises money for college students.
Davis was married to the late William Haynes Davis and the late Lawrence Eric Stanley. She has one adult daughter, Erin Danielle Stanley, a proud graduate of Spelman College and the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice.