In this month’s update of the CCC Project at Duke University, we are happy to announce the publication online of the records of Duke’s Department of African and African-American Studies.  The items included in this collection document the beginnings of the department, the research and teaching of its faculty members, and the various social and cultural movements occurring within the African-American community during the 1970s and later.  We encourage researchers to peruse the digitized documents, accessible from the collection inventory, to find a host of items sure to add to the scholarship of the long civil rights movement.

Our document spotlight for the month highlights the struggles that the African and African-American Studies Department, then known as the Black Studies Program, experienced in its earliest days.  From its inception in 1969, the Black Studies Program had been offering several courses through adjunct faculty.  Still, the Program lacked a director and its course slate remained minimal, although the Program did offer a major.

In addition, members of the African-American community at Duke contended that the university’s administration did not implement programs to encourage “black cultural representation.”  The document shown below is a draft petition from late 1979 written by members of the African-American community at Duke asking the administration to ameliorate both the academic and cultural issues that hampered the growth of the African-American community at the university.

Draft Petition to Duke Administration Regarding Cultural Representation of the Black Community, 1979

Draft Petition to Duke Administration Regarding Cultural Representation of the Black Community. Department of African and African-American Studies Records, Box 1, folder 30 (File ID daams01030169)

Although we do not have a completed petition in the Department’s records, the goals of the document did eventually become Duke’s policy.  University administration would create new standards to recruit more African-American faculty members.  In addition, the Program would soon become a fully-staffed Department.  In terms of cultural engagement, the establishment of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture in 1983 helped to fulfill the demands listed in the petition.  Researchers will now have the opportunity to learn even more about the beginnings of African-American Studies at Duke and how struggles for recognition led to a strong academic and cultural presence on campus.

The grant-funded CCC Project is designed to digitize selected manuscripts and photographs relating to the long civil rights movement. For more about Rubenstein Library materials being digitized through the CCC Project, check out previous progress updates posted here at The Devil’s Tale

Post contributed by Josh Hager, CCC Graduate Assistant.




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3 Responses to Digitizing the LCRM: Duke’s Dept. of African & African-American Studies

  1. [...] Digitizing the LCRM: Duke's Dept. of African & African-American … In addition, members of the African-American community at Duke contended that the university's administration did not implement programs to encourage “black cultural representation.” The document shown below is a draft … [...]

  2. Beth says:

    Excellent work Josh! Thanks for sharing what is new in the digi collections and how this project is going. I’m very excited to see it.

  3. [...] This month’s Digitizing the Long Civil Rights Movement update pauses to look back into Duke’s own past struggles with racial equality.  On February 13, 1969, students in the Afro-American Society occupied the Allen Building where the university’s primary administration offices were (and still are) located.  These students demanded that Duke take steps to enact racial equality on campus, including the founding of an African-American Studies department, the hiring of more African-American professors, and the establishment of an African-American cultural center on campus.  Similar demands had been made before from members of the Black Studies Program, as featured in our fourth update in this blog series. [...]

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