Scope and Contents
Language of Material:
University of California, Davis Library,
Dept. of Special Collections
Title: Tansey W. Thomas Papers on the Status of African
Americans in the City of Davis and UC Davis
Thomas, Tansey W.
Identifier/Call Number: D-628
Abstract: Papers, placards,
posters, photographs, and memorabilia related to the life and
work of Davis, California community organizer and activist Tansey
Physical Location: Researchers should
contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are
Tansey Washington Thomas (1931-2017) was a community organizer
and political activist in every sense of those words. Throughout
her life Tansey devoted her energy and intelligence to advocating
for civil rights, women's rights, social and economic justice,
and equality and fairness for all people.
Tansey Washington was born on Dec. 3, 1931 in Long Branch,
N.J., to Rocksey Gray Adams Washington and Charles Washington.
She was the third born of four children. Tansey graduated from
Long Branch High School in 1949 and immediately went to work as a
nurse assistant. In 1952 she enlisted in the United States Navy
WAVES and did her boot camp recruitment training at Naval Station
Great Lakes near Chicago. After graduation her first assignment
was at the U.S. Naval Air Station, Lakehurst, N.J., followed by
billets in San Diego and San Francisco. In December 1953 Tansey
attended a specialized training program at the U.S. Naval
Training Center in San Diego graduating with the rank of Yeoman
Class "A". Tansey was Honorably Discharged from the Navy on Feb.
28, 1958, upon her marriage to Horace Anthony Thomas Jr., a U.S.
Marine. They were married on Feb. 11, 1958, in San Francisco.
In 1958 Tansey went to work for the Internal Revenue Service
in San Francisco, later transferring to Washington D.C. where her
children Tony and Lisa were born. She transferred back with the
IRS to California in 1965 after her divorce from Mr. Thomas,
settling in Sacramento.
While working in Sacramento and raising Tony and Lisa she
began her college education at Sacramento City College,
eventually moving to Davis and transferring to UC Davis in 1969.
She graduated in 1973 with a BA in Sociology and then began her
graduate studies in Sociology. Professors Roland Marchand, Lyn
and John Lofland, and Isao Fujimoto, as well as graduate student
Dorothy Place, were her advisors providing academic mentoring and
friendship to her and her children. Tansey was a longtime member
of the United Methodist Church of Davis. She delighted in the
civic activism of the congregation under the leadership of the
Rev. Darrell Darling and made many friends among the members.
Upon completion of her college education Tansey worked for the
State of California as an analyst with several agencies including
the DMV, Fish & Game, and Consumer Affairs Board of Sciences,
retiring after a 25-year career. Tansey resided in Davis for 48
years and will be most remembered for her civic and political
activism and as an effective community organizer both on the UC
Davis campus and in the Davis community. At the center of her
activism was the belief in treating everyone with fairness,
kindness, respect and seeking justice for all.
As a student in 1972 Tansey served as the Regional Campaign
Organizer/Coordinator for Rep. Shirley Chisolm's 1972
presidential campaign for the Fourth Congressional District. She
was a "founding mother" of the UC Davis Women's Resource and
Research Center. She invited Maya Angelou to the campus to speak
and Ms. Angelou accepted her invitation. She conceived and
organized many symposiums at the university, including a
monthlong conference in 1977 titled "Love in America" co-chaired
with UC Davis English professor Carl Shapiro, studying the
question: "What is love in America?"
In 1989 Tansey was selected to be a delegate with the Uman
Davis Sister City Project, traveling with Maynard Skinner, Stan
Forbes, Joan Poulos and Chris Grain to the International
Conference of Sister Cities held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. On this
trip the delegation also visited Russia and Ukraine and Tansey
often mentioned what a wonderful experience this was for her to
help represent the City of Davis.
For many years Tansey served on and chaired the City of Davis
Human Relations Commission. In her later years she served on the
City of Davis Senior Services Commission. The City of Davis gave
Tansey their Thong Hy Huynh Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005
for her "significant human rights efforts improving the quality
of life in Davis." She was honored by the Yolo County Concilio in
2005 with their Community Award for building bridges among all
peoples and in 2014 she was again honored with their Lifetime
Tansey served on the Board of Directors of DCTV (now known as
Davis Media Access) from 1996 to 1999. She hosted numerous shows
and worked with staff to strengthen this local community owned
station. One of her most memorable programs was interviewing
members of the Davis contingent of the Freedom Marchers (Rev.
John Pamperin, Dick Holdstock and Terry Turner) who traveled to
Alabama in 1965 to walk with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on
what became known as the famous "Selma to Montgomery Voting
A lifelong member of the Democratic Party, she was active in
the Davis Democratic Club, served on the Yolo County Democratic
Central Committee, was a delegate to many California Democratic
State Conventions and was active in many local campaigns. In
recent years she was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton's two
presidential campaigns and delighted in the election of Barack
Obama as president. She was honored by the Davis Democratic Club
at their annual holiday event by "Recognizing Tansey Thomas for a
Lifetime Achievement Award acknowledging her dedicated commitment
to the entire Davis community in Race Relations, Academic
Achievement and Social Justice from 1970 to the present, December
8, 2013." At that event she was also honored by Congressman John
Garamendi, State Senator Lois Wolk and Assemblywoman Mariko
Yamada with Resolutions commending her for a lifetime of
community activism working to bring equality to all Americans
regardless of their race, creed, ethnicity or sexual
Tansey ran for the Davis City Council in 1980 and 2000. Her
2000 campaign caught a spark, and with tremendous community
support and a lifetime of Davis friends to help, and endorsements
from mayors Julie Partanksy and Ken Wagstaff she was nearly
elected and placed runner up, losing a council seat by only 370
votes. Her campaign theme was: "Tansey Thomas! for Davis City
Council 'Let's Make a Difference.'"
Tansey Thomas died peacefully in her home in Davis on October
Scope and Contents
This collection documents community organizer and activist
Tansey Thomas's life and work through correspondence, writings,
notes and clipping files, meeting minutes, placards, posters,
photographs, and memorabilia. Most of the materials in the
collection date from Ms. Thomas's years in Sacramento and Davis,
California, though her early life is also represented through
yearbooks, letters, and photographs.
The collection includes extensive material on race and racism
in Davis and at UC Davis from the 1970s through the 2010s.
Davis's social and political changes throughout this time are
documented through clipping files, letters to the editor of the
California Aggie and the
Davis Enterprise, minutes of the Davis Human
Relations Commission, and political campaign materials. Many of
the Democratic activists and politicians active in Davis from the
late 1990s through the 2010s appear among photographs of Tansey
Thomas's friends and fellow activists.
Also present in the collection is a small set of recordings of
Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrations, Black History Month
activities, and Juneteenth celebrations in Davis, as well as
photographs of Tansey Thomas's family and friends, her travels in
Uman and Ukraine, and images of Ms. Thomas with Shirley Chisholm
and Jesse Jackson.
Collection is open for research.
Liz Phillips processed this collection.
Gift of Lisa Thomas, 2017-2019.
[Identification of item], Tansey W. Thomas Papers on the
Status of African Americans in the City of Davis and UC Davis,
D-628, Archives and Special Collections, UC Davis Library,
University of California, Davis.
All applicable copyrights for the collection are protected
under chapter 17 of the U.S. Copyright Code. Requests for
permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted
in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for
publication is given on behalf of the Regents of the University
of California as the owner of the physical items. It is not
intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder,
which must also be obtained by the researcher.
Subjects and Indexing Terms
African American women political activists --
Community activists -- Davis (Calif.)
Davis (Calif.) -- Politics and
Davis (Calif.) -- History
Thomas, Tansey W. -- Archives