Caroline Bond Day (Courtesy of Radcliffe College Archives) (November 18, 1889 – May 5, 1948)
The life of Carline Bond Day in the early twenty-century
Caroline Bond Day was the first African American to receive a Master’s degree in Anthropology (Ardizzone, 113). She attended Harvard University and published her research on the sociology of African American families. Her thesis, “A Study of Some Negro-White Families in the United States,” published in 1932, contained sociological and anthropological information on 350 mixed-race family histories with over 400 photographs (Ardizzone, 106), (Harvard University, 1/108). This topic was close to Day’s own family life as she herself was of mixed race. Day was the first African American who turned her lens on her own family and social world, “Negro-White” families, in order to scientifically measure and record the hybridity of mixed race families by using the language of what she referred to as “blood-quantum” that illustrates the fraction of racial types (Ardizzone, 107). Her research challenged the perception of inferiority of nonwhites. She attempted to eliminate racial preconception and discrimination and advocated social equality for all African Americans. (Ardizzone, 106) (Curwood). Although Day’s work was not well received within contemporary scholarship in the early twentieth century and still remains controversial, her scientific research revaluates the accomplishments of African American women in the white male dominated field of physical anthropology and marks the first step in understanding and promoting African American biological vindication (Ross, Adam, Williams, 48)
Birth and Early Childhood
Caroline Bond Day was born on November 18, 1889 to Georgia and Moses Steward in Montgomery, Alabama. According to her own calculations of blood quantum, Day was a mulatto; 7/16 Negro; 1/16 Indian; and 8/16 White (Ardizzone, 112). After her father’s death, her mother moved to Tuskegee, Alabama, where she taught at Tuskegee elementary school, and married John Percy Bond, a life insurance company executive. Day took her stepfather’s last name and had a half-sister, Wenonah Bond Logan, and a half-brother, Jack Bond.
Education and Marriage
After Day attended Tuskegee elementary school (1905) and Atlanta University High School (1908), she received a bachelor’s degree at Atlanta University in 1912, but her major and courses are unknown (Ross, Adam, Williams, 44). Day tried to obtain a graduate degree from Radcliffe College, but was initially refused when they did not accept the undergraduate course credits she earned from Atlanta University. She took additional undergraduate courses with Ernest Hooton, the only physical anthropologist within the academic department at Harvard and became the editor of her research project (Ross, Adam, Williams, 442). Following her attainment of a second Bachelor’s degree from Radcliffe, Day had various work experience: a YWCA secretary; as a social worker in relief and support services for black soldiers in New York City; an English teacher at Paul Quinn College in Waco, Texas; and the head of the English department at Prairie View College in Texas. Day married Aaron Day, “11/16 Negro, 5/16 White,” a chemistry teacher at Prairie View College, on March 1, 1920 (Ross, Adam, Williams, 44), (Harvard University, 2/108). After the marriage, Aaron day worked for the National Benefit Life Insurance Company where Caroline’s stepfather was employed. The family moved several times due to Aaron Day’s frequent promotions. While Day was staying in Atlanta, Georgia, she taught English and drama at Atlanta University and also published several essays and short stories from 1922 to 1927 (Harvard, 2/108).
By continuing to collect data from people of mixed black and white ancestry “in her spare time” over the thirteen years (Harvard, 2/108), Day successfully published “A Study of Some Negro-White Families in the United States” in 1932 (Ross, Adam, Williams, 44). Her accomplishment brought her the title of the first African American anthropology at Harvard to receive a Master’s degree with first authorship for her research work (Ardizzone, 113). Her research was a unique anthropological study that provided over 400 family photographs and morphological features and possible inheritance patterns (Ross, Adam, Williams, 44). It provides a scholarly examination of physiological, biological and sociological characteristics of race crossing (Ross, Adam, Williams, 44). It is possible that Day was influenced by W.E.B Du Bois’ sociological study of the African American as a social group. Du Bois, the editor of The Crisis, was a professor of economics and history at University from 1896 to 1910 while Day was attending Atlanta University (Ross, Adams, Williams, 39). Du Bois supported Day’s research and corresponded with her regarding her thesis work at Radcliffe. In fact, Day utilized his family photos in her research paper (Ardizzone, 119).
Many decades after Days’ death, she is now recognized as a pioneer physical anthropologist whose study helped future black researchers and is used to challenge scientific racism about miscegenation (Ross, Adam, Williams, 48 -49).
Day’s Death and Archive
Day was suffering from recurrent illness, and she died from a stroke due to complications from her chronic heart condition on May 5, 1948 in North Carolina (Alexander, 68), (Harvard ). Day’s archive is kept at the Peabody Museum of Harvard University. Day’s archives are houses at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum. A digital edition of her thesis is available through Harvard University Library. (Hodes)
Her archive information: http://oasis.lib.harvard.edu/oasis/deliver/~pea00032
Peabody information: https://www.peabody.harvard.edu/node/962
Work in full: http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/49232260?n=4591
Actual Work Link (included in larger volume): http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/48607473?n=201&imagesize=1200&jp2Res=.25&printThumbnails=no
Link to Zola Neale Hurston (African American Anthropologist): ttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zora_Neale_Hurston
Earnest Hooton: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earnest_Hooton
W.E.B. Du Bois: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._B._Du_Bois
The Crisis March 1930: Race-Crossing in the United States By Caroline Bond Day Pg. 81-82: https://books.google.com/books?d=slcEAAAAMBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false
‘Such fine families’: photography and race in the work of Caroline Bond Day:
- Alexander, Adele Logan. “Day, Caroline Steward Bond.” Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia, Darlene Clark Hine, ed. Brookly: Carlson. 1993
- Ardizzone, Heidi. “Such fine families: photography and race in the work of Caroline Bond Day.” Visual Studies, Vol.21, No.2, October 2006.
- Curwood, Anastasia C. “Caroline Bond Day (1889-1948): A Black Woman Outsider Within Physical Anthropology.” Transforming Anthropology. Volume 20. Issue 1. April 2012
- Hodes, Martha. “Black, brown and beige.” The Women’s Review of Books. Old city Publishing, Inc. 1999
- Peabody Museum Archives, Harvard University. “Day, Caroline Bond, 1889-1948. Papers of Caroline Bond Day, bulk, 1918-1931: A finding Aid.”
- Ross, Hubert B, Adams, Amelia Marie, and Williams, Lynne Mallory. “African-American Pioneers in Anthropology.” The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois 1999