Introduction

Tear-gas surrounding the Allen Building

Tear gas outside of the Allen Building on February 13, 1969.

On the morning of February 13, 1969, members of Duke’s Afro-American Society entered the Allen Building (the main administrative building of the University) and staged a takeover of the Registrar office on the first-floor. At a predominantly white university that had only just recently desegregated, and at a time of fervent student-led activism, the Afro-American Society staged the protest as a means to bring attention to black issues on campus. After taking over Allen, the student occupiers released a set of thirteen demands, which included proposals for a Black Studies department and better working conditions for non-academic employees. Only when the administration conceded to every demand would the student occupiers agree to vacate the building.  

Although the actual takeover was short-lived, the events of February 13, 1969 have become etched into Duke’s institutional narrative. The Allen Building Takeover, in a decade generally fraught with many social changes, represented the culmination of racial tensions between the administration, students, and other members of the Duke and Durham community. The Takeover has become memorialized throughout the years in a number of academic studies, commemorations, and other retrospectives.  

2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover and represents an opportunity to look back at the event through a new lens. This exhibit specifically examines the Takeover through various first-hand materials housed in the University Archives. In doing so, this exhibit represents a space in which visitors can reflect upon the tumultuous events of the 1960s, as well as the still lingering specter of racism that continues to affect Duke as an institution. 

Introduction