In February 1969, African American students at Duke seized the Allen Building, the university’s main administration building. A daylong standoff ended with the students leaving the building at the same moment that police in riot gear stormed the building. Police subsequently engaged crowds of students in its main quad, using clubs and tear gas. The protest and its results has left a long shadow at Duke. In 2019 celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the takeover brought original protesters back on campus for panel discussions, storytelling, and reconnection with old friends and places. Using those discussions, interviews, and archival tape, Pivot Point tells the story of the occupation and its aftermath. Parts I and II follow below.
If you have comments on this series, please click here to be directed to our comments page. We’ll read and appreciate your comments, and we’ll get back to you. Thanks for your interest!
This is a three-part series.
Part I: Boiling Point
Part II: Confrontation
The Duke University Archives have rich resources surrounding the takeover. For images of the takeover, please click here. For sounds, click here. For a timeline created by the Duke Chronicle, click here. The Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity discusses the commemoration here, and coverage and tweets about that event can be read here.
TRANSCRIPT of Part I of Pivot Point: Boiling Point.
ACTUALITY, TAPE 7, 0:00
Good morning for WDBS Contemporary News, this is David Christy. Yesterday morning, about 75 members of the Duke Afro American Society took over Allen Building, the administration building of Duke University.
ACTUALITY, TAPE 1, 5:53
We just rented a U-Haul truck and brought a few people over and sneaked em’ in … (laughter). That’s all there was to it.
ACTUALITY, TAPE 1, 0:46
Massed troopers are now starting to march through the Gardens, they are all armed with clubs, uh, three tear gas guns, foggers
ACTUALITY, TAPE 1 2:53
We knew then that they wanted a confrontation, a violent confrontation, and I hope they’ve gotten what they wanted
ACTUALITY TAPE 2
They’re running around teargassing everything in sight. They’re running around the main quad 29:44
ACTUALITY TAPE 1, 2:07
Supposedly the blacks have already left the building through the front, we’ll find out later.
NATSOUND TAPE 3, 4:49
Evidently there is still a lot of activity going on out there, which is the understatement of the year. there went another grenade,
ACTUALITY TAPE 2
Tape running down sound end of tape
MUSIC up then under
It’s been fifty years. On February 13, 1969, members of Duke’s Afro-American Society seized Duke’s main administration center, the Allen Building. A day of anxious standoff ended with the students leaving the building through one door at the exact moment massed police and highway patrol officers in riot gear stormed in through another. A violent confrontation between police and the crowd of supportive students followed. Students were arrested, tried. Some left school. Some returned.
From students to staff, faculty to administration, nobody’s life, nobody’s Duke, wasn’t shaken. In Pivot Point, a three-part special series from the Devils’ Share, the podcast of Duke Magazine, we join the participants in looking back at the takeover and its results.
Part I: Boiling Point.
VIDEO 1, 15:38 0408-000
Ashby, “What a pivotal moment that was in Duke’s history.”
Pivotal — and a long time coming. That was Valerie Ashby, dean of Trinity College of Arts & Sciences, and one of a litany of current Duke administrators who are black ….
ACTUALITY, UP then UNDER:
VIDEO 1 17:38 FF 0408-000
“… includes professor … to … the leader of the Health System the leader of the Graduate education the leader of undergraduate education the leader of the chapel or the leader of academic affairs are all black” [applause]
Ashby spoke in February at “Commemorating the Allen Building Takeover: 50 Years Later,” a program organized by the Department of African & African American Studies for which the demands of the protesting students five decades ago paved the way. One panel discussion at the Washington Duke Inn included several members of the group who originally took over the building; another included current Duke activists.
Ashby was introduced by Mark Anthony Neal.
NEAL VIDEO 12:47 0408-000
The first of the demands of the students who occupied the Allen building was for the formation of a fully accredited dept of afro amer studies. I speak with you today as professor and chair of the nationally and internationally renowned department of African and African American Studies. [APPLAUSE]
In large part because of the vision and bravery of those students fifty years ago.
Vision. Bravery. Duke now looks back at the Allen Building takeover as one of the vital pivot points in its history. Panelist and original activist Charles Becton cadged note cards used earlier in the day by Duke President Vince Price:
Becton, Tape 1, 1:42:39 0408-000
this morning at a brunch he said the occupation of the Allen building was one of the most pivotal moments in our university’s history a moment that would not have been possible without your courage and conviction and your willingness to stand up for what was right in the action that you took you forever shifted our sails toward the prevailing winds of justice and equality
As Ashby said,
ASHBY, VIDEO 1, 16:31 04-08-001
Your sacrifice has changed Duke. Duke is not the same.
Current campus activist Sydney Roberts sat on the second panel:
VIDEO 2, Syd, 1:13:39 04-002
Y’all deserve so much, and it’s so overdue, because y’all fundamentally changed the university in ways I honestly didn’t believe was possible
The admiration from student activists is a constant. That institutional welcome, of course, represents rather a change in perspective.
VIDEO 2, FULLER, SYD 74:16 04-002
they didn’t say that in 69
Let’s be real clear.
It’s that memoriam between what happens to when the university can commodify it for its own value, right? [there you go\]
CATH LEBLANC, VIDEO 1, 25:49 04-003
That certainly was not the way we were treated the day of the takeover
SYD, VIDEO 2, 73:15 08-004
So to hear price say something like that feels so painful, of how angry he got when we dared to say we want to honor the memory of the silent vigil by asking for the same things.
Things students, especially black students, have asked for since not just the Allen Building Takeover in 1969 but the Silent Vigil, in 1968 and in a history of protests against discrimination before that, starting even long before Duke’s first admission of black graduate and professional students in 1961 and undergraduates in 1963.
Mark Anthony Neal.
NEAL VIDEO 1 11:46 04008-006
WIth the integrating of Duke in 1963 … and campuses across the nation the political passions of activism that were gestating at HBCUs began to flower.
MARK ANTHONY NEAL VIDEO 1 10:54 0408-007
Many of these institutions were unprepared for the futures that their students demanded. Duke was such an institution.
The Vigil, and especially the Takeover, resulted from that lack of preparation. For a weekend in February 2019 the people at the core of that moment, that pivotal moment, came together. They looked backward. They looked forward. They looked at Duke.
MUSIC UP THEN UNDER
To begin, start perhaps with the Hope Valley Country Club.
Video 1, 64:15
The Afro American Society was put together in the spring of 1967,
That’s Duke Afro American Society founder and president Chuck Hopkins.
Video 1 64:13 0408-008
the organization of the group came on the heels of protests around segregated country club, hope valley…
Picketers protested a Duke athletic event at Hope Valley in 1966, and in 1967, one of the early coordinated efforts by black students was the daylong Hope Valley Study-In. Students filled Duke President Dr. Douglas Knight’s office, protesting his membership in the segregated country club that seemed to represent the worst of retrograde racism.
ACTUALITY 1:38 https://repository.duke.edu/dc/silabt/silau001010 0408-010
Now, really, we’ve said a lot about the Hope Valley Country Club thing. I guess our logic there has been primarily that Doctor Knight, as the President of Duke University, really isn’t as morally committed to discourage segregation in any form in this community and to actively work for racial harmony and the symbol, it seems to many of us, of segregation in Durham is the Hope Valley Country Club.
The issue remained a year later, when the Silent Vigil took over the Quad in 1968 following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. On its first night, a group of students took four demands to Knight, at his home.
ACTUALITY (up then under) 0408-009
The third is that Doctor Knight resign from the Hope Valley Country Club which practices segregation
Knight wasn’t buying.
ACTUALITY https://repository.duke.edu/dc/silabt/silau001008 0:30 0408-011
I’d have to say to you I hadn’t looked on that as the important issue. Not nearly as important as the chance to work with members of my community who may not see the matter of country club membership as you do. And to cut myself off from that, I hadn’t seen, and don’t see it as a wise thing.
Hope Valley remained a sticking point through Knight’s tenure and beyond. So did Duke’s slow pursuit of the goals its black students and their allies demanded: classes and professors that addressed the issues of race and African-American history and support for the first generation of black students unprepared for the changes awaiting them at Duke.
Takeover participants recalled how at Duke, black students, commonly from largely black communities, felt almost completely isolated.
Michael LeBlanc, Video 1, 47:50 0408-12
At Duke I could go two to three days without seeing another black person. that was so totally disconcerting to me.
That’s Allen Building occupier Michael LeBlanc recalling his first months on campus. Chuck Hopkins saw much the same.
ACTUALITY Hopkins, Video 1, 50:57 0408-17
As Mike just said you didn’t see a lot of black people I don’t know for some reason Duke thought that the best way to to bring us here was to I said us isolated keep the black students isolated from each other so in all of our classes we were the only one and on top of that that’s a small number so you know I would see across campus you know another black student you know
individual and but there was never any kind of interaction interaction that was and to this day I don’t know why that was their policy. but then you know
we got here in September and then you know as a fall develops and you know what
happens in the fall leaves
Duke got all these trees so you got leaves
covering the ground and I wake up one
and there’s all these black people it’s
all raking leaves and I was like wow you
know our presence is here we are here
and to me it was like a scene out of
Gone with the Wind to just see that and absorb that.
The students recalled fondly the support they received from those black workers, including maids. That solidarity expressed itself politically, too.
ACTUALITY Video 1 52:22 0408-013
political thing I got involved in when I
came to Duke was width off
mr. Harvey and you know and finding out
that these maids they were making 80
cents an hour and out of the 80 cents an
hour they were required to buy their own
uniforms and and these were people like
you know like my mother in arms so you
know in terms of images that’s what hit
me when I first got here
Isolation was far from the only issue the students faced. Chuck Hopkins.
ACTUALITY VIDEO 1 53:57 0408-14
Jordan was one of the professors here
At Duke because not not everybody at DUke
agreed that black people were smart enough
to be a Duke he was one of the people
who who didn’t think black people belong
on the campus and my essays would come
back and be all you know marked up
… and I began to talk to him
about ‘em and he and that’s when I
learned his view he said that black he I
mean he told me this he said black
students are not black people are not
smart enough to be successful at a
school like Duke University and you
know they don’t warrant the kind of attention that a professor should
be giving them and but I kept writing my
essays and the next time I went up
and question him about essay I
had written he accused me of having my
white roommate from Knoxville Tennessee
of writing my essays focus by then he
was realizing that there things were
good so at that point he accused me of
having I’ll say his name Reed Kramer it
was a great roommate and good friend
today he accused me of having him write
my essays and and it continued like that
and the best I ever got out of his class
was see see maybe a c-plus
It wasn’t just faculty, Becton recalls.
ACTUALITY VIdeo 1 45:47 Becton 0408-15
second year we decided
to look for a house on this side of town
the Duke side of town Hatcher came
down looking for house and no realtor
would show him a house on this side of
the very next weekend I came back from
DC and Hatcher and I tried to find a
house in this out of town could not we
went by the Duke housing office on
campus and they said there wasn’t just
nothing available about a week before
law school was to start for my second
year we came back down to the housing
office and said we need a house close to
campus They said there’s nothing available yeah
we aren’t going to move we’re gonna sit
right here till you find us a house I’m
happy to report that in 15 minutes the
shortest sit-in in the history of the
world wait a minute… not only did they find us a
house he was at 12:04 West Markham right
behind Baldwin auditorium it had a
balcony and two rooftop decks.
That house shows up again later. Pay attention.
ACTUALITY Video 1 48:00 0408-16
I was taking a
political science course … and and he wrote the book that we
were using and he would talk and they
Say the Nigra over there what do you think
is yeah what do you think. What did he say? Yeah, the nigra. And
so for first to three classes I took it
you know but I’m 17 years old and I’m
like no this ain’t right I know this not
right and so next time I got sweat
pouring down like, I’m not taking this I said
excuse me professor Simpson this is
really gonna get you out I’m a negro.
1967 y’all might not think about we were
Negros we’re James Brown hadn’t made that
record yet You had graduated from
being colored absolutely so in what
Beckman said was real clear cuz we had
just moved from being colored to I was
proud I’m a negro
and he said nigra sit down I’m like wait
a minute I’m like no I’m a negro and we
just you know anyway we had a battle
every time for the whole semester every
time he said nigra I stood up and I said
Negro but shall think about to be 17
years old that that was not easy [applause]
In the face of such treatment in 1967 black students organized the Afro-American society, Duke’s first black student association. Through the association students continued to present demands to the university. Progress was slow, and times were tense. Student protest at places like Columbia and Berkeley had set a standard; Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated. And police had killed unarmed black students in 1968 in Orangeburg, South Carolina. A fire intensified beneath Duke’s new and growing population of black students.
In late 1968, students had once again approached administrators to address “points of concern” including various types of support for black students, the playing of “Dixie” at official events, and — still — Knight’s membership in Hope Valley. The result was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a committee.
ACTUALITY Tape 5, 31:12 08-018
Hence, yesterday morning, the Executive Committee, 31:12
which serves as a committee on committees 31:15
for the University faculty, asked the 31:17
president to utilize that committee 31:21
as a committee on committees, 31:22
(audience laughing) 31:24
The time had come to adopt a new strategy. The Duke black community had heard enough of
ACTUALITY Video 1 48:00 0408-16
Nigra, sit down.
It was time to stand up.
MUSIC UP THEN UNDER
This has been part I of Pivot Point: The Allen Building Takeover at Duke, a special series from The Devils’ Share, the podcast of Duke Magazine.
TRANSCRIPT of PART II of PIVOT POINT: CONFRONTATION
This is Part II of Pivot Point: the Allen Building Takeover at Duke, a special series from the Devils’ Share, the podcast of Duke Magazine. In part I we heard about the issues Duke’s black students faced and how they began making demands of the Duke administration.
ACTUALITY: We came back down to the housing office and said, we need a house close to campus. They said “There’s nothing available!”
ACTUALITY: He, uh, accused me of having my white roommate of writing my essays
ACTUALITY: The third is that Dr. Knight resign from the Hope Valley Country Club, which practices segregation
ACTUALITY: To me it was like a scene out of Gone with the Wind
ACTUALITY: He said, “Nigra, sit down…”
Part II: Confrontation.
Frustrated by the slow pace of the administration dealing with the issues they faced, the black students withdrew. They were fierce, and though they were few, their number was increasing. After the first five undergrads in 1963, by 1969 the Duke cohort of black students had grown to around 90. Hardly a tide, but a critical mass approached. And newer students had stronger opinions.
LeBlanc : — video 1 416-000
then you had the class of 71 and the class of 72 as Chuck will call them it
was the hotheads all right? that we just came … so all of a sudden we got this critical mass and… that energy started to build up … as the intellectuals got everything together and … they really had a good platform of what we should do, but we had a certain energy… and like i said that critical mass that said, okay we need to do something.
And matters approached a tipping point.
ACTUALITY video 1 416-000
There was a number of us that got together and said all right we’re convincing everybody, we’re going into the building
This was not like a tuesday we said we were going. This was like water boiling. It just got hotter and hotter and hotter.
With a typically Duke motivating factor.
ACTUALITY video 1 416-001
The turning point for me as the organizer of the thing was when grades came out…
ACTUALITY video 1 416-001
First semester grades came out and I have people coming to me black students coming to me who had never participated in any kind of Afro-Am Soc activity… black students who’ve never spoken to me but they came to me and said, ‘Chuck, we need to do something.’
The Afro American Society had been demanding help for students making the transition to life at a demanding university. Grades came out clarified the reason behind those demands, galvanizing the newer students.
The final push came during Black Week, a cultural enterprise organized by the black students. Protester Janice Williams recalls.
ACTUALITY video 1 416-002
So you get to black week and it helps you see what the demands are. It helped us see those involved what Chuck was talking about because we had no black professors to help us we didn’t have any black lit courses black theater how can you not have black theater [UNDER] you know so you just went on and on
ACTUALITY video 1, 416-003
Black week was a cultural happening as well as a political happening. Amiri baraka, fannie lou hamer, … these were important figures in the black cultural and black political milieu of the time, and they had … what they said when they got here was very supportive of what we were trying to do even when we weren’t sure what it was we were trying to do at the time
… that galvanized us for what was to come soon…
That was occupier Michael McBride. Along with the black theater and black art, a black boutique and a black magazine, during Black Week the Afro-American Society brought to campus activist and comedian Dick Gregory, who spoke at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 10 and even accompanied the students to another meeting at Knight’s home.
At Cameron he didn’t hold back.
Tape 6 19:24 0416-004
This is the most morally polluted, degenerate, 19:24
insane nation on the face of this earth, bar none. 19:27
(crowd applauding and cheering) 19:30
When you get to the point where you upset the capitalists 21:11
where he’s gonna lose some money, 21:14
you run around, there is all these people 21:17
running around here talking about 21:18
“We’re sure doing a lot for the colored.” 21:19
Ain’t nobody doing nothing for us. 21:21
We was out here marching under the Constitution, 21:23
and we didn’t do nothing but get kicked in our butt 21:25
and shot in our head. 21:27
When them niggers start burning that property down, 21:28
the capitalists said, “Give them what they want.”
So I say to you youngsters, 22:14
as you work to change the system, 22:15
please let your number one point of order 22:19
be these colleges and universities across this country, 22:21
please change them immediately.
Insults me to have white America 25:13
ask black folks to be non-violent. 25:16
She owns the mightiest Navy, the mightiest Army, 25:19
the mightiest Air Force, 25:21
owns all the police, state police, federal police, 25:23
local police, sheriffs police, 25:26
CIA, FBI, and she comes to us with all them guns 25:27
and we ain’t got a damn thing, 25:30
and she says, “Be non-violent, boy.” 25:31
We say, “You go to hell.”
Maybe not hell, but the Allen Building for sure. Gregory was ready for something to happen. So were the students. Duke archivist Amy McDonald noted that even the Chronicle seemed to know something was up, showing an article from two days before the takeover.
00:03 So this is an article from the chronicle around the time Dick Gregory came to visit, from Feb. 11
00:43 It says “black is beautiful,” so this was during black week.
00:15 and the chronicle reports on Gregory remarks, and Gregory says, “which is the mark of degeneracy: stealing drawers or taking over the administration building?”
So I’ve always sort of wondered: did they tell him this was in the offing?
They definitely did, says then-staffer Mark Pinsky. In the days before cell phones and laptops, Duke had made its news bureau telephones and typewriters available to reporters.
ACTUALITY Pinsky 09-000
1:07 a number of us felt that the message of the vigil had been hijacked by the university. Mainly because the news bureau made itself available to the out of town journalists.
1:34 We agreed that if something like that happened again, we’d control the narrative.
So i met with Chuck Hopkins of the Af Amer Soc. and said how can WE take over the narrative? He agreed — he trusted us. When they went in, were never exactly sure when they would go in, he would give us a heads up so we know in advance, would mobilize our staff on third floor, Flowers building, and then as the out of town people came in, which we assumed that they would, we would make the third floor of Flowers building their headquarters. we would make our typewriters, and our people, and our telephones available to them.
Planning meetings had been going on for some time. And note: remember the apartment the housing office unwillingly found for Charles Becton? That’s where they met.
McBride, Video 1, 73:05 416-009
I do remember a meeting at house on I think on Markham go before where where we discussed are
going to the building that we would the final plans were we’re laid that we would arrive early in the morning that we would exit the back of a truck that we would clear the building I think
there had been some practice on that I remember a brief discussion on whether we should take weapons and it was Chuck’s position in mind that we should that we should not he Chuck was concerned that we keep the focus on the demands and we not do anything there would give anyone an excuse to not address our demands
my concern was that I thought we might die
now if it was
–that was mine too
— I I thought we might die and I thought
if we had guns I was certain that we
would die and we would not even have
sympathy on our side
so I was against bringing guns into the
–but everybody didn’t feel that
–but we didn’t take guns in.
No guns, no violence. That was the approach from the start. The group notified the Chronicle and rented a truck. Charles Becton.
several students spent the night before there slept on the floor of my apartment. Others just got there at the appointed time to jump on the truck, other students who did not come to East campus or to my apartment hung out on quad on West Campus. And when the truck arrived and people started pouring out of the truck those people also rushed into Allen building.
We had a timetable. THe building had been scouted before. We had a diagram of the building. We knew what time the building would be open. We knew how much time it would take.
Video 1 1:20:31 0416-010
Well we went into the building the first thing of course we did we secured the building. First thing I saw was some of the secretaries way down the hall quickly leaving the building. I said that was good because one of the things we emphasized in our strategy meeting, not only weren’t we bringing arms into the building, but we also we weren’t going to touch anybody. Our thing was don’t give the administration an excuse not to focus on the issues we were trying to raise. So when i saw these secretaries fleeing the building that was a good thing. In our planning and our walk throughs we had actually timed it in terms of how much time it would take to clear the building. you know and i was pleased that when we actually did it we beat our time.
Tape 2, 12:24; tape 19 0:02 better quality 0416-011
This took us one minute and 59 seconds
Those are the voices of several female students who left the building midday, and could provide live details to Duke radio station WDBS about what was going on inside.
The most important thing for the students was that, despite rumors that immediately began swirling, as they entered the building they made no threats and used no violence.
Tape 2, 11:40 416-012
–They have no firearms?
–No. no firearms, no kerosene or gasoline.
–Were you with them this morning?
–We came in the front door, there wasn’t any physical violence. Walked on their own two feet.
They roped the doors up, they chained the doors. they boarded the doors up with boards and nails
This took us one minute and 59 seconds.
Students spoke through windows to WDBS.
Tape 2, 19:23 416-014
–There were reposrts of violence…
–No, they walked out on their own. They were even given time to get their own coats. How could we throw them out?
The students quickly reached out to get their demands to the administration.
Video 1, Hopkins, 1:24:26 416-015
The building was secure, I got on the phone, called Dean Griffith, I said Dean Griffith, this is Chuck Hopkins, chairman of the Afro-American Society, we have taken over the administration building, we’re in here now, and these are the demands. i read him eleven demands.
Bill Griffith sort of stuttered a little bit and he finally said ok chuck I’ll get back to you.
The demands included an Afro-American Studies department; black dorms, student activities, and advisers, all organized with student participation; more black students, and admission standards to achieve that goal; and union rights for university workers. Eventually the students added amnesty for protesters and students who had failed out to the list. At first the smoothness of the initial takeover had the students elated. Charles Becton.
I think there was a feeling of accomplishment. Of joy. About what we had done and the statement we were about to make.
3, 7:46 416-016
It felt, that it was a good strategic move today, 7:49
we felt, that timing was right, right after black week, 7:52
everything’s coming off smoothly now, 7:56
we feel, that it has proved, that the time was right. 7:57
– Alright and what do you plan to do 8:01
as far as waiting out the demands? 8:02
– We plan to stay here until the university 8:05
concedes to our demands or offer us something better 8:07
at this institution, at this time, we have nothing off 8:09
and I said this institution, but a white man’s education, 8:12
which has no relevance to us here and now
Students in the building communicated with partners outside, who could speak publicly.
ACTUALITY TAPE 1, 5:53-6:08 418-000
What we all hope to accomplish by you might say seizing a part of allen building this morning we just rented a uhaul truck and brought a few people and sneaked em in. that’s all there was to it.
This is supposed to be
a sort of a power play, we have to have somethin’, you know, 6:10
if we’re gonna try to make some demands upon the University. 6:13
With nothin’, you know, you don’t have anything to ah, 6:15
no inner ground to bargain from.
Since years of discussion preceded the occupation, the students were in no rush to leave.
Tape 1 7:45 418-001
They told me just to tell you that everything was going well, and they they are prepared to stay for quite a while.
They didn’t expect confrontation, recalls Janice WIlliams
We actually went in with the mindset that they were gonna make us suffer, that they would leave us in there, we would be in there a number of days. Because they would hope that we would be hungry. Things that parents tend to do for younger children is where our mindset was. Not that they would call armed police.
Though nobody was playing games.
Tape 2, 12:51 418-002
They’ve been knowing
what’s going on for two and a half years. 12:51
– For two and a half years. 12:54
– And today it’s gonna stop,
one way or the other.
09-005 Becton 9:38
Only later in aft when it became clear, after negotiations were about to begin, that no negotiations would take place until we left the building and the police had been called, that things get really tense.
Durham activist Howard Fuller, who had provided guidance to the students, eventually joined them in the building. White students met on the quad and in the chapel, eventually surrounding the Allen Building in support. Students from NC Central showed up in solidarity. And the students in the building believed they might accomplish something great. Chuck Hopkins.
Video 1, 1:24:53 416-015
Later on in the day they were
Asking us to send representatives to another room in Allen Building, negotiate some things.… we were kinda making progress on that bc they were at least talking about issues that were on our mind.
At one point in the afternoon it looked like something might come out of that.
But then pres knight returned, and President Knight’s position was as long as we in the building no negotiation.
So that ended that.
Duke issued an ultimatum demanding the students leave, and, fearful of a confrontation with police, some did.
Tape 2, 13:20 418-005
–They’ve been issued an ultimatum, right?
—Who issued that
–Mr. hobbs, the provost of the university
–ANd how did you finally get out of the building…
They didn’t let you through that door i’m sure.
–No, we left through a window
–Lowered out a window…
That’s correct. The students who left were lowered out windows because once they had barricaded the building from within, the university had locked the doors from without. Simply walking out the doors was no longer an option.
When the day began President Knight was in New York on a fundraising trip. He returned to campus just in time to enter a hastily called faculty meeting in Baldwin Auditorium at 4 pm. A small group of faculty had been lobbying all day.
Tape 4, 22:21 418-006
Our Object was to see if it was possible to prevent the bringing of police onto campus. We were assured at that time that there was no thought of doing so. [murmurs, laughter] We tried to make it perfectly clear and made it very explicit the consequences that would occur on campus if this were done.
Yet police were already on their way to Duke Gardens as faculty met at 4.
Tape 2, 6:19 418-007
We had about 10 or 15 minutes to go before the ultimatum was to expire at that point, we then rose and offered a motion that the faculty of Duke University request and direct the president and provost to suspend the force of that statement, until our deliberations were concluded. … there was at that point a great deal of urgency, since time was running out.
…the president, at one point, after that, said that even if the motion passed, there are occasions where machinery is set in motion and so forth, and the university would, not necessarily be bound by the motion even if it were passed.
Machinery set in motion and so forth. Since their recommendation would have no effect, the minority of faculty supporting the students moved to adjourn the meeting. Motion overwhelmingly defeated.
Tape 2, 8:53 418-008
I understand some 35 faculty members walked out amid the jeering, hisses and derisory applause of a large number of our colleagues.
Tape 2 9:04 418-008
There is a report that the police have already organized and formed…
Tape 1, 0:00 418-009
County sheriff, durham city police, NC State hiway patrol, are massed some 70-to-100 strong… in the Duke Gardens parking lot awaiting orders
Remember that many of the protesting students had left the Allen building when the university issued the ultimatum. Those who remained knew the police were coming, and they had decisions to make.
Tape 1, 0:30 418-009
They’re now lining up they’ve gotten out of their cars each man has a club, a gun, and he’s wearing his protective helmet. They seem to be ready to move out now and we’ll try to follow along with them.
Tension within the building had by then begun to rise. Michael LeBlanc
Leblanc, 09-008, 1:42
The school gave us I think three ultimatums. IT wasn’t just one. And at the first ultimatum a number of students decided to leave. This was maybe around 1 oclock. At the 3 oclock time frame there was another group that decided to go.
More students left, again out the window.
It changed during the course of the day. As it got darker, the threat of the consequences physically got more serious, or the threat of the consequences got more serious …. There was a contingent absolutely committed to we should not leave the building…. That is put in the context of …
State police, highway patrol coming in, it was hey, we got an excuse to take em out now, we got a legit reason to do some bodily harm
Video 1 418-011
90:57 then we got word from I think the Chronicle the
the athletes that were on the walkie-talkies and they are amassing in
the Duke Gardens and it’s a whole bunch of them and they coming
Tape 1, starting about 0:46 418-009
–Massed troopers are starting to march through the gardens
–they’re armed with clubs, three tear gas guns, foggers, that i can count, a couple of riot guns, each man of course has his pistol and they’re all equipped with a gas mask
The remaining students took a final vote. Counting the votes was Charles Becton, law student and, significantly, oldest of the protesters. He made what in retrospect was a wise decision.
Video 1, 91:15-91:46 418-012
so on the next vote and I was counting the vote was 13 to
stay 12 to leave
–but I reported that as just the opposite.
–I was OLDER than them by about 5 or 6 years.
–why, you tell us why you lied brother
–To save us from dying
–I am so glad he lied.
With the police on the way to the building’s back door, Becton misreported the vote. Based on that, the students quickly made their way out the front door — which they could do because of a remarkable coincidence.
VIDEO 1 1:33:01 418-014
When I went out the window I was terrified, …, because when they said y’all need to leave you know what that was they’re saying ok so if we gonna die are we gonna be hurt or we got to fight y’all got to go. so when I went out fortunately and y’all know how fate is I ran into one of the security who…
back when I was there we had a curfew if you came on East Campus women’s college past the curfew you had to go to security to get in your dorm … a security guard that had met me and thought I was the nicest person had came to me he said what’s going on and I said we’re trying to get out the building and we can’t get out the building because the administration has locked us in. those big wooden doors were locked so even when we unbarricaded what we had done we were still locked in the building and he grabbed his key … but he opened up the door that face Perkins and I was so glad to see y’all come out I could have just laid down and died
Before they left, the protesters took an action that serves as a reminder that they were, after all, college students. Catherine LeBlanc remembers.
Video 1, 95:15 418-015
When we prepared to stay for the incoming of the police and we started to put butts of cigarettes in our noses we had been told that if we squeeze lemon juice on our eyes that it will help to deal with the tear gas and so that was the visual of what we looked like during that time when we had taken the vote to stay and after we took the second vote and Becton so graciously saved our lives we decided to come out of the building.
These were students standing up for their rights fiercely, bravely
Tape 2 20:00 OR tape 19 2:48 good quality
Well, if the man’s gonna send 85 or 70 cops 19:58
on a bunch of flimsy things he thinks 20:02
are happening inside, I don’t think, at the moment, 20:06
we can say we’re gonna get ’em. 20:09
But I can say this much, we’re gonna fight 20:11
all the way to the end to get ’em, 20:13
and we’re gonna leave this goddamned rathole.
Yet brave and fierce, they were college students. Michael LeBlanc.
I remember back then people used to smoke a lot so they had these black trash cans with the silver top. We took the silver tops off, and we put int on there was to or three women that stayed, and we put it on top of their heads… so if you ever looked at it, we had filters coming out of our nose, lemon in your eyes crying, and a silver trash can on our head. and we were ready to fight the man.
Some of it was naive, foolhardy and funny.
In retrospect perhaps. At the time it was deadly serious. Recognizing that seriousness, the students chose to avoid that threatening conflict.
Tape 1 1:26 418-017
Surprisingly enough, as the police amass in the Gardens, we’ve just been informed that the black students vacated the administration building and they have begun marching down campus drive away from the chapel. The Blacks marched down the end of the drive and massed at the circle
Video 1 418-015
police was coming in the door that faced
Campus Drive as we were coming out of
the building facing Perkins library and
our recollection is that they came in
throwing tear gas 96:15
TAPE 2, 21:36 418-018
They were coming out with jacket and stuff over their heads, probably to prevent pictures
and they were marching down, away from the chapel, 24:29
and they were saying, oh, what were they saying. 24:33
They were saying, “It’s not over — 24:35
(someone reminds him in background) 24:37
“Hell no, it’s not over.” 24:39
They got about halfway between the chapel and the gates 24:41
when three police cars came down, 24:45
mildly struck a girl, a black girl. 24:47
they were surrounded by blacks from NCC, 25:09
and as they were marching down, 25:12
all yelling, “Hell no, it’s not over,” 25:14
and then they hit the car with whatever they had 25:16
in their hands — 25:18
– One car?
Just one car? 25:20
– All three of ’em.
– Okay. 25:22
– And then they turned around
and they followed the police cars back toward 25:25
Allen Building. 25:28
At the same time, the highway patrol and the Durham police 25:29
moved in from in the back of Allen Building — 25:34
— And closed off Allen Building, right? 25:38
— Closed off Allen Building completely. 25:39
They’re now standing out there, in front of the door, 25:41
the students are all around them, 25:46
some had, at first, were throwing things —
The black students? 25:49
– Yeah, no.
White and black. 25:52
And they were yelling, “Sieg heil”, and — 25:54
– So —
Tape 1, 1:58
Exactly when and why the teargassing started has never been clear. But the white students challenged the police, and…
Tape 3, 0:04 AVAILABLE
Listen they’ve gassed the place!
Catherine, Vid 1 418-021
in time and aftermath you all have seen
the pictures of what was going on on
campus between the white students and
the police and that’s when all the tear
gas was being thrown but we were already
safely out of the building
Tape 2, 27:13 418-022
Oh boy, cops were (gasping for breath) 27:13
standing outside of Allen Building, 27:17
started throwing tear gas grenades into the students. 27:19
running away, they’re throwing anything they can get 27:28
their hands on. 27:29
Must have thrown about six or seven tear gas grenades. 27:31
– Okay. 27:34
– And it’s just covering
the, this is the quad,
the part where the buses pull up. 27:38
— Right, now was there any provocation that you saw 27:41
that provoked them to throw the tear gas? 27:43
There must have been something, anything happen? 27:45
— Not that I, 27:48
ugh, got some of that stuff in my eyes. 27:50
Not that (gasping) — 27:51
Tape 2 418-022
Okay, all I could get is that the cops, 28:41
that the students started sort of pushing in on the cops. 28:43
– Uh huh? 28:46
– And that started,
the cops just started throwing tear gas. 28:47
— does it seem to you now that the majority of white students there are now sympathizing with the blacks?
–oh, you’d better believe it. it may not be they’re sympathizing with the blacks, but they’re sure after the police
Tape 2, 29:44 AVAILABLE
They’re running around the campus 29:49
tear-gassing everything in sight. 29:51
They’re running around outside the main quad 29:52
in the bus circle, just throwing teargas grenades 29:54
right and left.
–there goes a grenade right in front of us the smoke i can see is pouring up out of it. several people are dispersing running, the students evidently regrouped and charged again towards the police. the police retaliated with the gas [under]
For more than an hour West campus was a maelstrom.
Debbie Fritz was a freshman then.
so i was young, i was just a freshman, second semester, i was walking home from chem lab. just walking back to get the bus over to east campus something going on… the allen building was being taken over heard a few things, it was the black students, some of their protests were
while i was standing there police got hysterical i guess. i don’t know they charged us, i’m just standing there, they teargassed us … I could see the police were panicked. You could tell they were lashing out at everybody.
Duke hung in the balance. Police continued to shoot teargas, students ran back and forth across the quad.
i hear two or three grenades go off there’s lights on all outside in front of here now as students are charging once again inside the building
There’s another smoke bomb going off between here and allen quad
there went something i couldn’t tell exactly what that was
But just as the decision to bring police on campus probably made conflict inevitable, decisions the students had made previously began to assert themselves, too. The black students had decided not to bring weapons into the building, so there were no weapons. The black students had left the building to try to avoid a violent confrontation, so when that confrontation occurred, instead of an identifiable group of a few dozen black students to engage with, the police faced a shifting mob of a thousand bodies, and they eventually returned to the Allen Building.
Tape 3, 3:46 of Tape 19 5:51 18-025
– Those are police, they’re heading back 3:38
toward Alan building. 3:40
Just police right at the moment out there. 3:42
A violent confrontation was almost inevitable from the moment the police arrived on campus; perhaps from the moment the students took over the building. Perhaps from the moment president Knight refused to leave the country club.
Tape 1, 2:39 814-028
We have been meeting for two-and-a-half years 2:39
on the oldest demands, nothin’ has come of ’em. 2:42
Six months on the most recent demands, nothin’ has happened! 2:44
And today the University, again, refused to meet with us 2:47
when we asked them to while were in there! 2:51
So, we knew then that they wanted a confrontation, 2:53
a violent confrontation, 2:56
and I hope they’ve gotten what they wanted! 2:58
– And you, did you, can you tell me, please, 3:00
did you walk out to avoid 3:02
a violent confrontation? 3:03
–evidently there still is a lot of activity going on out there which is the understatement of the year
I can’t see from 4:58
my vantage point exactly what is going on down there. 5:00
I see a lot of smoke flowing around, 5:04
but at this moment, I can’t exactly describe 5:10
what is going on for the windows are just to my left and i can’t see what’s happening around that corner
It never got much easier to say what happened.
As the campus calmed, responses began. Meetings occurred in Page Auditorium that evening and over the coming few days, outlining university responses — and demonstrating that little was resolved.
TOM RAINEY(?) TAPE 4, 814-026
13:33, we used to have a faculty here or something that called itself a faculty but they sullied themselves by selling out to the corporate structure…when they gave Douglas Knight a blank check to bring the pigs here on top of us and don’t you forget it!
Tape 4 814-027
You know how they act. And I question their humanity, I really do 31:19
having called the police into this university 31:22
to attack first, an empty building. 31:25
And second– 31:28
(crowd applauding) 31:29
After having victoriously conquered the empty building, 31:39
they turned to the spectators who were watching 31:42
and decided that they ought to conquer them, 31:46
and so we played tag around the quad. 31:49
PAGE meeting evening 2/13, TAPE 4 418-029
1:22 although we left allen bldg this evening, at this point our main aim is to intensify the struggle that we have begun. we’re going to intensify the struggle
3:22 knight’s running around the damn country trying to get more money billions of dollars for the university, he lives in a $350,000 home himself. people out in the community, people human beings, living in poor dilapidated homes, we walked in there man we were sinking in that carpet out there.
and here was this pig, this big
fat greasy sloppy pig sitting there lavishing in all his wealth
What’s that fellas name, Hobbs, that’s what his name is? 21:53
Prohobbs, something like that, didn’t that cat himself 21:57
say that once you bring them pigs on campus, 22:00
you ain’t go no control over ’em? 22:03
They knew that before they brought him on here. 22:05
They knew that. 22:08
why is the administration 9:52
and the Board of Trustees uptight about 13 demands 9:57
that relate to people being people? 10:02
You know why? Why! 10:04
First off, ’cause they Black people. 10:06
First off, ’cause they Black people. 10:09
And understand that first off ’cause they Black people, 10:10
and second of all, because they are beginning 10:13
to act in their self interests. in other words they’re beginning to understand how america operates. damn! if they getting that, why aint i got something to do with myself?
The aftermath of the takeover and conflict, if less violent, was just as intense. The protesters had raised questions at Duke that would not recede back into the background.
Duke’s pivot had begun.
MUSIC UP THEN UNDER
On part three of Pivot Point:
END PART II