Founders’ Day Traditions

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The practice of honoring the benefactors of Trinity College and Duke University was formalized by the Board of Trustees on June 4, 1901, when October 3 was designated as Benefactors’ Day in honor of Washington Duke. The original intent “to honor Washington Duke forever” has been kept in spirit, but the name and date of the annual observance has changed over the years. It has been called Benefactors’ Day (1901-1924), Duke University Day (1926-1947), and, since 1948, Founders’ Day. The most elaborate celebrations occurred during the year-long Centennial Celebration of 1938-1939, and on the 100th anniversary of James B. Duke’s birth in 1956.

After the creation of Duke University in 1924, the date shifted to December 11 in honor of the signing of the Indenture of The Duke Endowment. For several decades, tree-planting ceremonies were a traditional part of the festivities. In 1997, the ceremonies were moved back to a date in the early fall, usually the weekend closest to October 3rd. Events include a memorial for members of the community deceased during the year passed, recognition of outstanding students, faculty, and staff, and the presentations of awards for teaching, the Distinguished Alumni Award, and the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service at Duke.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

The RBMSCL Celebrates Banned Books Week

In honor of Banned Books Week, we’ve asked the staff of the RBMSCL to reflect upon their favorite banned or challenged book:

“To me, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is the quintessential banned book. Hilarious, heartfelt, and packed with classic scenes, it has also been seriously offensive in very many ways to very many people in the 125 years since its publication. And yet there has never been any consensus on what, exactly, makes it worth burning—its immorality, poor spelling and grammar, racism, homoeroticism, and encouragement of juvenile delinquency have all come under fire. The book itself remains as tricksy as its narrator, and as its native time and place.”

—Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections

“One challenged book that I enjoyed reading and discussing in school was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Not only does this book break away from many literary norms, but I think it also succeeds in charging its readers to think about aspects of community, identity, and survival.”

—Jennifer Thompson, Research Services and Collection Development Librarian for the Franklin Research Center

“Widespread celebrations have marked the 50th anniversary of the publication of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the American Library Association’s Top 100 banned or challenged novels of the 20th century. As a girl in 1960s Alabama, I was deeply troubled by the pervasive racial inequity that was so much a part of the social fabric. I felt a powerful identification with Scout and her father, Atticus, gave me hope that, eventually, individuals might change that fabric.”

—Elizabeth B. Dunn, Research Services Librarian

“While not a banned book (banned broadside), Martin Luther’s 95 Theses which he nailed on the Wittenberg Church door on Oct. 31, 1517 greatly influenced me. As an undergraduate at Duke just after the period of social protests in the 1960s, the idea that a provocative list of concerns by an early 16th century monk could transform the establishment inspired me. I went on study Luther and wrote my senior theses on the use of hymnody for protest. Perhaps those protest songs of the 1960s were not so novel after all!”

—Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist

“Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, a rejoinder to Edmund Burke’s 1790 denunciation, Reflections on the Revolution in France, was so popular that it was published multiple times in 1791 and caused a furor in England. Paine argued that human rights are natural (not given) rights and that government’s are a product of and always accountable to the people. Not unexpectedly, Rights of Man was banned by the British crown for supporting the French Revolution and led to the prosecution of Paine who wisely had left England prior to his conviction. In a time when our nation’s human rights record is questionable to say the least, I am heartened, encouraged, and inspired by Paine’s courage and conviction in arguing that human rights are the foundation of a just society and the publication of Rights of Man reminds me that human rights have been with us since the birth of this country.”

—Patrick Stawski, Human Rights Archivist

Take a look at the lists of Frequently Challenged Books available at the American Library Association’s website and tell us about your own favorite banned or challenged books!

Honoring Jean O’Barr

Date: Thursday, 30 September 2010
Time: 3:00 PM
Location: Duke Women’s Center (map and directions)
Contact Information: Kelly Wooten, 919-660-5967 or kelly.wooten(at)

Professor Jean O’Barr. Photo by Eleanor Mills.

The Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture and the Duke Women’s Center invite you to a gathering in celebration of Professor Jean O’Barr, founder of Duke’s Women’s Studies Program and co-founder of the Bingham Center.

Professor O’Barr will be honored with the University Medal for Distinguished Meritorious Service at this year’s Founder’s Day Convocation, which will follow this reception at 4:00 PM in Duke Chapel.

The First Homecoming

On November 11, 1924—exactly one month before James B. Duke would make the gift that would transform Trinity College into Duke University—Trinity held its first official homecoming. It was also Armistice Day, which commemorated the end of World War I, and was a holiday for most folks. Football was the centerpiece of the day and the largest crowd to ever see a Trinity athletics event gathered at Hanes field (site of today’s Williams Field on East Campus) as the Blue Devils lost to Wake Forest. Nearly 1,000 alumni attended the events that day, which included a gathering of alumni clubs as well as the screening of the film, “A Year at Trinity.”

Homecoming Parade, 1941.

Over the years parades, skits, and musical performances have been added to the homecoming festivities. One thing has not changed—the chance for alumni to return home to their alma mater and relive those glory days of college.

To see photographs of homecomings past, visit the University Archives’ “Homecoming Celebrations” set at Duke Yearlook, our Flickr photostream.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Treasures of the TCHS

Date: Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Time: 3:30 PM
Location: Rare Book Room and Perkins Library Gallery
Contact Information: Amy McDonald, 919-681-7987 or amy.mcdonald(at)

Piece of Wood, undated. From the Trinity College Historical Society Collection.

Ever wonder how the Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library got its start? When faculty started using primary sources in their teaching? Why the University Archives keeps a seemingly random chunk of wood in its collections?

Find out all this and more as the co-curators of “‘As Far As Possible from Forgetfulness’: The Trinity College Historical Society” lead a gallery tour and talk about this popular exhibit, on display in the Perkins Library Gallery through October 10.

University Archivist Tim Pyatt will start the celebration with a brief history of the TCHS. Then co-curators Meghan Lyon, Amy McDonald, and Kim Sims will lead a tour of exhibit in the Perkins Library Gallery, sharing some of the stories behind the artifacts in the cases and the people who collected them. A reception in the Rare Book Room will follow their remarks.

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Duke Jazz Ensemble Celebrates Frank Foster

Date: Friday, 1 October 2010
Time: 8:00 PM
Location: Baldwin Auditorium (map and directions)
Contact Information: Jeremy Smith, 919-660-5839 or jas5(at)

Frank Foster, ca. 1970s. From the Frank Foster Papers.

The Duke University Jazz Ensemble, led by John Brown, presents a concert celebrating living jazz legend Frank Foster.

This concert will include Foster’s new arrangements of compositions by North Carolina musicians, completed to commemorate his association with Duke University. Duke Jazz Studies Program alums and past guest artists will join the performance with the Duke Jazz Ensemble.

Foster’s papers were recently acquired by the RBMSCL’s Jazz Archive. A Grammy Award-winning composer and saxophonist, Foster was a member of the Count Basie Orchestra,  and lead the group from 1986 to 1995. In 2002, he was presented with a Jazz Master Award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more details, including information about purchasing tickets, visit the Duke Department of Music’s event webpage.

Rights! Camera! Action!: After Innocence

Date: Thursday, 23 September 2010
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Patrick Stawski, 919-660-5823 or patrick.stawski(at), or Kirston Johnson, 919-681-7963 or kirston.johnson(at)

The Rights! Camera! Action! film series begins its fall season with this screening of After Innocence, the compelling story of seven men wrongfully imprisoned for decades and finally exonerated after DNA evidence proved their innocence. The men—including a police officer, an army sergeant, and a young father—are thrust back into society with little or no support from the system that put them behind bars. After Innocence shows that the human toll of wrongful imprisonment can last far longer than the sentences served.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion featuring recently-exonerated Shawn Massey and Theresa Newman, co-chair of Duke School of Law’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic.

The Rights! Camera! Action! film series, which is sponsored by the Archive for Human Rights, the Archive of Documentary Arts, the Duke Human Rights Center, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and Screen/Society at Duke’s Arts of the Moving Image Program, features documentaries on human rights themes that were award winners at the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. The films are archived at the RBMSCL, where they form part of a rich and expanding collection of human rights materials.

Alabama v. Duke

This Saturday’s football game with Alabama recalls the historic ties between our two programs. In 1930, shortly before the opening of the new Gothic West Campus, President William Few sought the advice of the celebrated Alabama coach Wallace Wade on potential names for a football coach and director of athletics. Wade, who had led Alabama to two Rose Bowls and a record of 51-13-3, surprised Few by replying that he would be interested in the vacancy. Wade brought his Alabama success to Duke, leading the Blue Devils to two Rose Bowls as well. He would post a record of 110-36-7 in his sixteen years as coach at Duke.

Sugar Bowl Coin Toss
The Coin Toss. From the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

While Wade served in the U.S. Army as major during World War II, his assistant Eddie Cameron took over as head coach and continued the Blue Devils’ gridiron success. He led the 1944 team to a Sugar Bowl showdown with Alabama on January 1, 1945. In what sportswriter Grantland Rice called “one of the greatest thrillers of all time” Duke edged the Tide 29 to 26. Cameron kept a scrapbook filled with images from the game, which now forms a part of the Edmund M. Cameron Records.

Duke’s connections to Alabama continue with current Coach David Cutcliffe, an Alabama native and graduate of the University of Alabama who also served as an intern to legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant. Duke fans will be hoping that Coach Cutcliffe will rekindle some of that “Sugar Bowl magic” and will lead us to another thrilling victory over Alabama this Saturday!

Post contributed by Tim Pyatt, Duke University Archivist.

Opening Reception for “Deena Stryker: Photographs of Cuba, 1963-1964″

Date: Thursday, 16 September 2010
Time: 4:00 PM
Location: Rare Book Room
Contact Information: Karen Glynn, 919-660-5968 or karen.glynn(at)

A café and store in Birán, Fidel Castro’s home town, Holguín Province, December 1963. From the Deena Stryker Photograph Collection.

Photographer and journalist Deena Stryker brings her reminiscences of the Cuban Revolution to this opening celebration for “Deena Stryker: Photographs of Cuba, 1963-1964,” on display through 12 December 2010 in the Special Collections Gallery.

Following Stryker’s remarks, exhibit curators Holly Ackerman and Heather Settle will lead a panel of several local experts on Cuba in discussing the photographs and placing them in their historical context. Panelists include:

  • Lars Schoultz, William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Monika Gosin, Program in Latino/a Studies in the Global South, Duke University
  • Linda Howe, Department of Romance Languages, Wake Forest University

A reception and gallery tour, led by Stryker, will follow.

Can’t visit the exhibit in person? Check out the virtual exhibit, which includes an additional eleven photos from the Deena Stryker Photograph Collection, part of the RBMSCL’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

My RBMSCL: Reading Dorothy Allison

Today, we’re starting a new feature: mini-essays from friends of the RBMSCL on the collections they’ve used and treasured. Below, Sharon Holland’s mini-essay about Dorothy Allison was inspired by the RBMSCL’s recent acquisition of Dorothy Allison’s papers

Photo courtesy of Sharon Holland.

I first encountered Dorothy Allison’s major work, Bastard Out of Carolina, on an overnight train (the Orient Express, no less) from Vienna to Paris. I wasn’t prepared for what would eventually happen in the book and when I got to the fateful scene in the car outside the hospital, I impulsively threw the book out of the window—it is still in a field somewhere along the train line. My reaction is a testament to the importance of the scene of violation that Allison wanted to construct for the reader—it was real, and sudden and devastating. I purchased the book upon my return to the United States and it has been one of my favorites since. Acquiring her papers is a serious accomplishment for Duke. Thank you for preserving the work and ultimately the memory of one of the most important feminist authors of the 20-21st century.

Post contributed by Sharon Holland, Associate Professor, English and African and African American Studies, Duke University.

Interested in contributing a mini-essay? E-mail me at amy.mcdonald(at)!

Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University