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‘Keep Going’

Karla FC Holloway Retires from Duke University with a Public Conversation on Race and the Academy — and a Message to Those Following in her Footsteps
Retirement celebration for Karla Holloway held in Penn Pavilion on Thursday, December 8, 2016.

After years of visionary contributions to Duke University and the academy at large, Karla FC Holloway, retired this month with public announcement of both an annual mentorship award and a fellowship named in her honor.

The Dec. 8, event, “Word Work: Race and the Academy,” featured Holloway, the James B. Duke Professor of English, professor of law and African and African American studies, in curated conversation with former student and TV personality Melissa Harris-Perry, the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair and Director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University.

Kerry Haynie, a professor of political science and co-director of the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity moderated the conversation along with Blair LM Kelley, an assistant dean and associate professor of history at North Carolina State University.

Members of the Duke administration, faculty, students, friends and family members gathered in Penn Pavilion for the intimate conversation that touched on higher education, leadership, writing and lessons Holloway learned during her distinguished career at the university.


“I’ve appreciated every opportunity I’ve had at Duke to be responsible. I’ve called it a position of authority,” said Holloway, noting that the word ‘leadership’, softens the act of leading. “To claim that language back, gives you the stature you need to be the decision-maker.”

She added: “With whatever grace there is in the universe, I’ve also been surrounded with people who will pick me up, give me books, say a good word, remind me that there’s another step,” Holloway said. “You just keep going. … I want all of you, especially in these times that we’ve left you, to keep going.”

At the end of the program, Harris-Perry who was mentored by Holloway as a graduate student at Duke, announced the creation of an endowment in Holloway’s name. The endowment will fund an annual award, the Karla Holloway Mentoring Award, for a nominated individual who has displayed excellence in mentoring young women and girls. It will be administered by the national Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research on Women and Girls of Color, currently being led by Harris-Perry and the Anna Julia Cooper Center. Read more about the award and eligibility requirements here.

As a founding member of DCORE, she led the university’s participation in the Collaborative, an initiative emanating from the White House Council on Women and Girls.

The event also served as a fundraiser for Holloway’s alma mater, Talladega College, an historically black college in Alabama.

Kristina Johnson, a former dean of the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke, followed Harris-Perry’s announcement, announcing an endowment and fellowship in Holloway’s honor, the Professor Karla Holloway Scholarship.

Walvid King, an Associate Vice-President at Talladega and Duke Provost Sally Kornbluth also provided remarks.

In addition to serving as mentor to innumerable students, Holloway has held several highly influential barrier-breaking roles at the university. She was the first African-American Dean of the Humanities and Dean of Social Sciences, the first African American female chair of Duke’s Appointment, Promotion and Tenure (APT) committee, and an elected member of the Academic Council and its Executive Committee (ECAC). She was co-founder of the John Hope Franklin Center and the Franklin Humanities Institute (FHI). As chair of the Department of African and African American Studies she guided it from a program to full department status.

She is also an affiliated faculty member with the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life and the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities

Holloway is the author of eight books, including the most recent “Legal Fictions: Constituting Race, Composing Literature.” Her research interests include African American cultural studies, biocultural studies, gender, ethics and law. She earned a Master’s of Legal Studies from Duke Law School in 2005. She serves on several boards including Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies, and the Princeton University Council on the Study of Women and Gender.

The event was sponsored by the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity (DCORE), the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Dean, Duke Law School, the Department of African and African American Studies, the Duke English Department and the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Thank you all. You offered generous sites for sanctuary, words that were wanted, gentle urges, quiet nudges, and certain spirits. You have assured that I have had a life in letters – a collection of hours finding their rhythm in words. All of which I would have wanted. Had I only known.


Word Work: Race and the Academy (updated)

A Curated Conversation on Race and the Academy

Featuring Melissa Harris-Perry and Karla FC Holloway


*View the program here: wordwork_2016-program

On the occasion of Prof. Holloway’s retirement from Duke University where she is the James B. Duke Professor of English and a professor of law and African & African American Studies, she will be joined in conversation with Melissa Harris-Perry, who is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair and director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center at Wake Forest University. #wordwork2016

5:00 -7:30 p.m.
Thursday, the 8th of December
Penn Pavilion
Duke University


The conversation will be moderated by:


blairlmkelley_cropBlair LM Kelley
Assistant Dean for Interdisciplinary Studies and International Programs
College of Humanites and Social Sciences
North Carolina State University







Kerry Haynie

Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
Co-director, Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity
Duke University



The event is co-sponsored by the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity and the Talladega College Alumni Association, the Office of the President, the Office of the Provost, the Office of the Dean, the Department of African and African American Studies, the Duke English Department and Duke Law School.