Tag Archive for 'Black Studies Program'

Completion of Duke’s CCC Still Image Digitization, Pt. 3

Duke University Libraries recently completed still image digitization for their contributions to the Content, Context, and Capacity (CCC) Project. Our last post highlighted the Basil Lee Whitener Papers and the records of the Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes (Durham chapter). In this final post on Duke’s digitization activities for the CCC, we focus on the Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers, 1851-1980; the Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002; the Black Student Alliance records, 1969-2006; and the Department of African and African American Studies records, 1966-1981:

  • Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers, 1851-1980 and undated, bulk 1926-1965: In 1953, Rencher Harris became the first African-American to serve as a Durham city councilman. He was also the first African-American to serve on the Durham County Board of Education. Harris was a trailblazing local leader whose files speak to the varied issues that officials must address on a daily basis. Researchers will learn about racial inequalities in Durham County Schools, the intersection of race relations and health care at Lincoln Hospital where Harris was the Secretary for the Board of Trustees, the complexities of zoning under Jim Crow, and the planning of projects that still impact Durham today. Harris also documented his city council campaigns, meaning researchers can see how Harris’s strong get-out-the-vote efforts squared off against racist hyperbole espoused in anonymous newspaper advertisements.
  • Allen Building Takeover Collection, 1969-2002 (Available from Duke University Archives (in finding aids): : February 13, 1969 and the subsequent days became the single most significant event in the history of civil rights at Duke. Students from the Afro-American Society occupied the Allen Building, the home of Duke’s administration. While the occupiers remained peaceful, violence erupted outside of the Allen Building between police officers and supporters of the takeover. This collection documents the events that led up to the takeover as well as the tumultuous days during and after the event. Researchers will also find media coverage of the takeover and remembrances written many years later about the impact of the takeover on Duke and the larger civil rights movement.
  • Black Student Alliance records, 1969-2006: The Afro-American Society, which would later become the Black Student Alliance (BSA), formed in 1967 only four years after the first African-American undergraduates were enrolled at Duke. The organization has undergone two name changes since its inception, first becoming the Association of African Students, or The Association, and taking its current name of the Black Student Alliance in 1976. The records in this collection document the BSA’s on-campus activities, writings, and publications. The BSA served as a major advocate for recruiting more African-American students and faculty as well as for recognizing African-American culture in campus life. Their publications (i.e. The Talking Drum) and scrapbooks document African-American student life, especially in the 1990s and 2000s. Recent Duke Alumni will find a great deal of interest in this collection.
  • Department of African and African American Studies records, 1966-1981: Started in 1969 as the Black Studies Program, the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke has become an essential department for the academic life of the university. This collection documents the beginnings of the department under Walter Buford and William Turner. Researchers will find documentation of the challenges of starting any new academic program but they will also learn of the unique struggles that African-American Studies faced in the early 1970s when some questioned the validity of the field itself. This collection also contains evidence of the intellectual history of radical politics, especially in the 1970s.

Researchers will certainly find a great deal of material to analyze in the eight collections cited in these posts. It is the hope of the CCC staff that you will visit the finding aids of each collection and start exploring the varied perspectives, narratives, and memories that help to comprise the Long Civil Rights Movement.

From the Archives: Burford’s Success Story–the Black Studies Department at Duke

This post contains highlights of material from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions. For more on this digitization project, click here.

In 1972, Walter Burford, the director of Duke’s Black Studies Department, referred to Duke’s program as “the most progressive in the South.” 1 Though at the time there was still much progress to be made towards the department’s permanent establishment, its presence was seen as a huge benefit for students on campus and the wider Durham community. In Burford’s eyes, Black Studies was a crucial element of a modern education, and he was “convinced that no one can receive a complete education without exposure to the experience and concerns of black people.” 1

After its founding in 1970, the Black Studies department sponsored courses, symposia, and lectures to give the African American experience a stronger voice in Duke’s academic community. In addition to high participation from the school’s African American students, courses offered by the department also saw interest from many white students; in a 1972 article written for Duke’s student newspaper, The Chronicle, Burford mentions religion and pre-medicine majors in particular “who see the relation of black studies to their own fields.” 1

While the creation of the Black Studies Department was a huge achievement for Duke, of the designation “most progressive in the South,” Burford acknowledged that “given the history of white, Southern institutions, I don’t know how much that is saying.” 1 Burford especially hoped to be able to bring more black faculty to Duke so that course offerings in the department could be expanded, but at the time continued funding was a major concern. Initial development for the department was sponsored by a $100,000 two-year grant from the Ford Foundation. In the third year, Duke University took responsibility for supplying the program’s funding, though annual funds were reduced from $50,000 to $41,000. To continue to meet the needs of the young department and its students, Burford strongly believed that the program would need space and money to grow.

Burford’s thoughts on Duke’s Black Studies Department can be found in this 1972 article from The Chronicle, digitized through the CCC grant as part of the Department of African and African American Studies records.


1. http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/uaafro/#daams02035

From the Archives: Struggling for Its Place — Duke’s Black Studies Program Appeals to President Terry Sanford

This post is the 12th in a series from the Triangle Research Libraries Network’s CCC project, digitizing 40 archival collections related to the long civil rights movement from four area institutions.  For more on this digitization project, click here.

Letter, Walter W. Buford to Terry Sanford, April 7, 1971.  Department of African and African-American Studies Records, Box 2, Folder 51, file ID daams02051013

Letter, Walter W. Burford to Terry Sanford, April 7, 1971. Department of African and African-American Studies Records, Box 2, Folder 51, file ID daams02051013

This blog post examines a letter sent in 1971 to Duke President Terry Sanford by professor Walter Burford of Duke’s Black Studies Program. This and other letters from professors Burford and William C. Turner, Jr., found in the Department of African and African-American Studies Records, provide a rough timeline of the Black Studies Program’s struggles for recognition and support.

President Terry Sanford first rose to statewide prominence in the 1960 N.C. gubernatorial campaign when he dispatched a segregationist challenger in the Democratic primary.  While in office, Sanford mandated statewide school integration. When Sanford arrived at Duke in April 1970, the university had recently experienced its own racial turmoil.  In February 1969, sixty members of the Afro-American Society occupied the Allen Building — home of Duke’s administration — with twelve demands, including the establishment of the Black Studies Program.  Although the occupying students peaceably exited the building, police engaged with students outside the building and fired tear gas upon them.  The university responded to the takeover by forming a committee that in May 1969 officially proposed the Black Studies Program.  (The records of the Allen Building Takeover will also be digitized in the coming years as part of the CCC Project.)

The letter shown above is the first sent to Terry Sanford by professor Burford, who wrote it contemporaneously to Sanford’s inauguration. Burford refers first to Sanford’s interest in Black Studies at Duke, indicating that Sanford likely asked Burford for this update as part of his orientation to the current issues facing the university. Burford then lays out a reasoned case as to why Black Studies deserved more recognition, funding, and professors. Burford uses the phrase “the ‘boy’ status” in describing his perception of how the Duke community perceived Black Studies. One could contend that Burford’s phraseology carried a double meaning, referring both to the newness of Black Studies as compared to other academic programs and the well-known use of “boy” as a denigrating term segregationists used in referring to African Americans.

Unfortunately, the records digitized for the CCC Project do not contain Sanford’s response to this or any of the other letters contained in the departmental records.  What we can gather from the subsequent letters is that, while some improvement occurred, progress was neither rapid nor easy.  In an April 1972 letter, Burford criticized the “weak support from the Administration” for Black Studies, going on to write the following strong rebuff:

I trust there is not a systematic disregard for such crucial matters as enumerated, for not only does such compromise the status of all Blacks at this Institution, but poses difficulties insurmountable to all seeking a relevant education.

The stern words must have initiated some progress; letters dated 1974 discuss transforming the Black Studies Program into a fully functioning department. We encourage you to peruse the records that are now available online to better understand the story of how the Black Studies Program at Duke transformed into the Department of African and African-American Studies.



Biography of Sanford from UNC-TV:  http://www.unctv.org/biocon/tsanford/timeline.html

Allen Building Takeover:  http://library.duke.edu/uarchives/exhibits/allen-building/page5.html