"I hardly remember any details of that day.... going in together with the Afro-Am Society and then emerging into a haze of tear gas and shouting and people everywhere, and then marching as part of a large group into Durham. I was nervous and exhilarated the whole day. I participated for a lot of reasons. One major reason was doing what I felt compelled to do to advance the liberation of Black people in the USA. Similar takeovers had already occurred at Cornell and Howard and Morehouse and militant student action was occurring all over the country. Also I was 18 years old and I had been immersed in the Black student experience at Duke night and day for months and had grown close to and identified with all who took part. We had embraced sticking together and although I've never been the boldest dude, once the group made the decision to take over the Allen Building, I knew I was in. Black student activism at Duke certainly influenced my career path because advancing the liberation of Black people continued to motivate the work I found myself doing. I subsequently earned a Master's in city planning (Harvard '78) and spent the majority of my work life at the National Conference of Black Mayors, The Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and the NAACP, promoting local community and economic development."
Arthur Cole, ‘72
"I was a co-founder of the Duke Afro American Society. I wrote the charter for the organization and submitted it to student government. I'm not sure if it was ASDU then (1967). The first name for the organization was the Adam Clayton Powell Society, but as I talked with more black students, we quickly settled on the Afro American Society. Other students around the country were using this name for their campus groups.
"I was elected as the first chairperson. I served two terms, but when we went into Allen Building, Mike McBride, ’71, had been elected as the new chairperson. My first activism at Duke was with some of the Vietnam anti-war students. For example, on Wednesdays, we would go to the federal building in Durham and join with folks from the Friends Society in a Silent Vigil against the war. Also, in 1967, we traveled to Washington, D.C. and took part in a huge national march at the Pentagon against the war. Another thing that was happening at the time was the effort on the part of Duke's non-academic employees to gain union recognition and collective bargaining rights. I took part in demonstrations on the quad in their support.
"I met Mr. (Oliver) Harvey, and being around him, I was impressed by his quiet demeanor and yet very firm determination. I was affected by the presence of maids in the dorms cleaning our rooms and making our beds. I was from a black working-class community in Richmond, Va. Both my mother and father worked to take care of eight children. Obviously, we didn't have maid service. Leaving for class in the morning and coming back in the evening and finding your bed made for you was a little strange for me. These women were the same age my mother would have been; some of them were old enough to be my grandmother. If I'm remembering correctly, Duke paid these women 80 cents an hour and they were required to purchase their own uniforms! Another thing that struck me was coming to campus and seeing black bodies raking leaves everywhere I looked. Unlike most of the time, this was one time in which black people at Duke were definitely present! It brought images in my mind of scenes from "Gone With the Wind."
"Teachers in the segregated schools I went to in Richmond and my parents instilled in me a strong sense of right and wrong. Therefore, it was easy/natural for me to identify with and support the organizing efforts of these workers on campus. As I met and got to know more and more of the black students we learned about the individual experiences we were having in class and around campus. For example, some Duke professors were not ready to accept black students in their classes. My freshman English teacher told me that he did not believe black students were intelligent enough to be successful at Duke. Therefore, despite the fact that I came to Duke with good writing skills, the highest grade he would give me on my essays was C or C-. Once he called me into his office and accused me of having my white roommate do my essays. As I interacted more and more with other black students, I was learning that my experiences were not that unique.
"There were other experiences around campus - the KAs waving huge Confederate flags and the band striking up "Dixie" at football games, being questioned by campus cops, being called racist names when walking past certain dorms, being bothered by Duke organizations holding functions at segregated facilities, in addition to Knight's membership at Hope Valley, and other things. I think that the thing that really politicized us as a group was when an article appeared in the Chronicle accusing black students of being reverse racists because we began eating together at our own table in the dining hall! In light of all the segregated social organizations on campus, we were both shocked and angered.
"I am going to stop here, but once we began to talk to university officials about these and other concerns (and their slow response as far as corrective measures) is what eventually leads up to the Allen Building takeover. In brief, the immediate response to the takeover was that the University responded positively to some of our concerns, and 48 of us were given one year on probation for our protest."
Charles W. Hopkins, ‘69
"I was a freshman and was excited to be a part of an event to make life better for black students. Facing the university’s consequences for my fellow classmates by joining them in the trial was a moment that took months to process for my own growth and development. I made lifetime friends and learned what it means to risk my life and livelihood for other as well as having someone do the same for me."
Janice Williams, ‘72
"It was both exciting and scary as we entered the building! The building was entered by different groups primarily the leaders and the followers! There was also a group of independent thinkers which I considered myself. At that time, at 19 year olds, I really didn’t understand the significance of the takeover, but over time it dawned on me and others that it was a tremendous accomplishment. God was our true director!"
Sundar Fleming, ’72
"What little I remember involved traveling in the back of a U-Haul truck to the building… The balance of my memory involved getting information from outside the building as to how we were being viewed and how our message was being received. Our message was directed to the Duke administration for recognition and respect; we were 187+ Blacks, on a campus of 8700 students..."
William ‘Bill’ McCadden, ‘71
"Yes, I was a participant in the Allen Building Takeover. We had inspirational speakers who visited with us on campus. They raised awareness and helped us focus on the daily challenges we experienced in the Duke environment."
Lynette Allston, ‘72
"First, the notion that Duke is owned by upper and middle class white males was never my perception. While they claimed and dominated where they could, Duke, like most of America, was built on the backs of poor people especially poor Blacks. There is clear history of Black folk literally laying and cutting the fancy stones that make up west campus. The now destroyed Crest Street community was built to house the many Blacks who moved to Durham to be a part of that construction.
"Secondly, the Duke fortune was built on tobacco, which next to cotton was one of the most labor exploitative efforts in American economic history. As a native Virginian, I know very well the realities of share cropping and meager wage work on tobacco farms (plantations). With Bull Durham, the Dukes and many others built their financial empires from the cheap, almost stolen labor of the many. I always felt that my time at Duke and in America had been earned by the labors and struggles of especially those Black people who came before me.
"Third, and I have not taken the effort to verify this, but I have heard from many local (Durham) Black folk that the actual land of especially West Campus, was once owned by Black farmers and bought cheaply, forced to sell, or otherwise taken by the Dukes. This also has been fairly common practice throughout the South and still continues to day. Gentrification is now a new location but not a new practice. There is much literature on the loss (theft) of Black land.
"So protest and efforts to change Duke are not intrusions by strangers as many would have you think. It is an assertion of the proper use of resources that have been accumulated in this space. Resources which because of the Allen Building takeover and many other struggles (Local 77, 1199, the vigil, etc.) have succeeded in moving Duke closer to an institution that better serves more people of all hues and lends a greater contribution to its time. Because of these struggles, Duke, like America, is not what its founders set out to create and sustain. Rather it has become something else, which is better. Your continued struggles can only add to that improvement.
"Finally, I do not believe this is a no-win struggle. Our fore fathers, so-called slaves and others struggled and resisted, not because of some existential fatalism, but because they knew and believed completely that change was possible and indeed would come. I like to think that the builders of West Campus knew that a day would come when learning, teaching and service there would not be the sole province of the sons of the planters, but of all who seek to learn, to teach, to serve. Allen building was just another step in that direction and the fulfillment of that dream."
John L. Hudgins, ‘72