Lizzy Davis

Associate Professor and Graduate Program Director
Lizzy Davis
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Lizzy Cooper Davis is an artist and scholar interested in how the arts can facilitate community conversation, resistance, and change. She is particularly focused on the cultural work within Black freedom movements and has conducted research in such places as Cuba, Brazil, and New Orleans. Her research on Black cultural organizing in the U.S. from the civil rights-era to the present was supported by a Ford Fellowship and hosted by Harvard’s Music Department and one of her resulting publications, “All Rights Reserved: Behind the Strategic Copyright of ‘We Shall Overcome’,” was named the Best Essay in Popular Music Scholarship by the Popular Music Study Group of the American Musicological Society. Other recent work includes two projects at Jacob's Pillow Dance--the first as a core collaborator for "Pittsfield Moves," a year-long community engagement project led by Angela’s Pulse with artists and activists in Berkshire County, and the second as part of the Dance and Social Change Working Group led by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Liz Lerman. She also works with Urban Bush Women on their antiracist leadership development and cultural organizing initiatives and as a scholar-in-residence. Additionally, Lizzy has trained with Augusto and Julian Boal and used the methods of their Theatre of the Oppressed in schools, community centers, and prisons. Her roles at the intersection of arts and social impact have included: Facilitation Trainer for Anna Deavere Smith's Notes From the Field: Doing Time in Education at the American Repertory Theater; facilitator for the community engagement initiative for Claudia Rankine's play The White Card co-produced by the A.R.T. and ArtsEmerson; Humanities Scholar and engagement partner for The Peculiar Patriot at ArtsEmerson; and mentor for Live Arts Boston, a project of the Boston Foundation supporting Boston-area performing artists, presenters, and producers. Lizzy has performed nationally as an actor in such theaters as Second Stage, The Public Theater, The Long Wharf, Berkeley Rep, and The American Repertory Theater and with such directors as Liesl Tommy, Anne Bogart, and Mary Zimmerman. She has also worked in television, film, and radio.

Lizzy co-edited Enacting Pleasure: Artists and Scholars Respond to Carol Gilligan's Map of Love (2010) and contributed a chapter on the Free Southern Theater's Story Circle methodology to Creating Space for Democracy: A Primer on Dialogue and Deliberation in Higher Education (Stylus, 2019). Her work on the freedom songs of the civil rights movement appeared in the roots music journal No Depression and the Journal of the Society for American Music, and her writing on the Urban Bush Women is in Creating Socially Engaged Art: Can Dance Change the World (Fall, 2021).

Lizzy is a member of the Advisory Council for the Emerson Prison Initiative and the HowlRound Theatre Commons and is also on the National Advisory Board for Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life.



B.A., Brown University
A.M., Harvard University
M.A., New York University
Ph.D., Harvard University

Areas of Expertise

  • Communication Studies
  • Cultural Studies
  • Health Communications
  • History
  • Humanities & Cultural Studies
  • Journalism
  • Marketing
  • Online Education
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Performing Arts
  • Theater