Davis was born in Los Angeles, California to Leona Julia and Louis Davis. She earned a BA in international relations from Stanford University and spent two years studying at the investment bank First Boston in New York. She then earned a scholarship for an independent study in Nigeria.
Davis began her career in Wall Street and then transitioned to publishing in 1990 as an assistant to André Schiffrin of the The New Press. Davis was president and publisher of Simon & Schuster’s 37 INK, a publication for historically marginalized authors. She had previously worked at HarperCollins, in their Amistad imprint. In 2020 she was announced as the next editor of Bon Appétit magazine, replacing Adam Rapoport. She is the third person of color to head a one of Conde Nast’s American publications. She has edited authors including Nafissa Thompson-Spires, Susan Rice, Wil Haygood, Issa Rae, Kevin Hart and more.
Davis edited Pulitzer Prize winner The Known World by Edward P. Jones, Steve Harvey’s book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, Southern Cross the Dog by Bill Cheng, and The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner which was also developed as a movie produced by and starring Will Smith. She edited the Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine, written by Mary Lau Valle and Victor M. Valle; the book was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award and two Julia Child Cookbook Awards.
In 2014 she was honored with Reginald Van Lee with the Visionary Award from the Metro Manhattan Chapter of The Links, Incorporated. In 2019 she was honored with the Editor’s Award by Poets & Writers.
- "Dawn Davis's Biography". The HistoryMakers. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- "Agents & Editors: Dawn Davis". Poets & Writers. August 19, 2015. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- "How Dawn Davis is bringing marginalized voices into book stores across America". NBC News. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- "Publishing Profiles: Dawn Davis, VP & Publisher at 37 INK | Young to Publishing Group". Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- Alter, Alexandra; Harris, Elizabeth A. (July 15, 2020). "In Publishing, 'Everything Is Up for Change'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- Heli, Emily (August 27, 2020). "Bon Appétit names book-publishing veteran Dawn Davis as top editor". Washington Post.
- Business, Kerry Flynn, CNN. "Bon Appétit names book publisher Dawn Davis as editor in chief". CNN. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- "Book-publishing exec Dawn Davis is new Bon Appetit editor". The Seattle Times. August 27, 2020. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- Crowley, Chris (August 27, 2020). "Bon Appétit Has Found Its Next Editor-in-chief". Grub Street. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- "Hungry for the Next Chapter, Dawn Davis Is Ready to Lead Bon Appetit". The Vineyard Gazette - Martha's Vineyard News. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- Sontag, Elazar (August 27, 2020). "Bon Appétit Announces Dawn Davis, Publishing Heavyweight, as New Editor-in-Chief". Eater. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- "Bon Appétit names Dawn Davis, celebrated Simon & Schuster exec, new editor-in-chief". adage.com. August 27, 2020. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- Tracy, Marc (August 27, 2020). "Bon Appétit's Next Editor in Chief Is a Book-World Star". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- Goldsmith, Jill; Goldsmith, Jill (August 27, 2020). "Condé Nast Names Dawn Davis Editor-In-Chief Of Embattled Bon Appétit". Deadline. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
- "Reginald Dwayne Betts, Neil Gaiman, Roxana Robinson, and Dawn Davis to be Honored by Poets & Writers". Poets & Writers. December 14, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2020.
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