History professor Jack Davis named 2019 Carnegie Fellow

University of Florida professor Jack Davis, a 2018 Pulitzer Prize winner for history, has been named to the Andrew Carnegie Fellows class of 2019. The program supports projects in the social sciences and humanities resulting in "a fresh perspective on a pressing challenge of our time," according to the Carnegie Corporation.

<p>Photo by Bernard Brzezinski/UF Photography</p>

Photo by Bernard Brzezinski/UF Photography

Davis' project is "Bird of Paradox: How the Bald Eagle Saved the Soul of America."

Environmental topics can be politically divisive, but everybody loves eagles, Davis says. The eagle is more than an emblem: It’s the most popular animal for sports mascots and the star of a hundred live-streaming webcams around the country. It wasn’t always that way, he says.

“Bald eagles have been our national symbol since 1782, but they had no protection. Into the 20th century, Americans were blowing the damn bird away left and right. Newspapers would cover the shootings with the wingspan measurement, as if they were reporting someone catching a largemouth bass. It was crazy.”

Eagles’ fate began to change with federal protection in 1940, plus the banning of the insecticide DDT and the restoration of their nesting and feeding areas.

The book, slated to hit shelves in 2021, will explore the connection between our national identity and the natural endowments that distinguished our fledgling nation and continue to shape our national character. The effort leading to the recovery of bald eagles in the United States “reveals to us values that perhaps we didn't know we had,” Davis says.

“It’s not just a bunch of birders and tree huggers watching these wildlife cams. It's all of us.”

An environmental historian, Davis won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea.”

Alisson Clark April 23, 2019