Outrageous Ambitions: How a One-Room Schoolhouse Became a Research University

Student Activism

Students have long recognized their power as institutional change-agents. The best known protest is probably 1969’s Allen Building Takeover, but students made their voices heard long before the 1960s, and continue to do so today.

Petition from students asking their professors and administrators for time off of classes such that they can complete their papers and study for tests.  This period of time between classes and finals eventually became known as "Reading Period."

1889 Student Petition, page 1

Petition from students asking their professors and administrators for time off of classes such that they can complete their papers and study for tests.  This period of time between classes and finals eventually became known as "Reading Period."

1889 Student Petition, page 2

1889 Student Petition

This petition was submitted to President Crowell by students asking for time before Christmas break to write papers and study for exams.  This eventually resulted in the period between classes and exams now known as “Reading Period.”

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Pin worn at the 1968 Silent Vigil on Chapel Quad.  The vigil was held for several days in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in support of better wages for Duke food service workers.

1968 Silent Vigil Pin

1968 Silent Vigil Pin

In April 1968, students camped out on the quad for days to protest low wages for dining hall and housekeeping workers on campus.  The Vigil was initiated by students who gathered in memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. after his assassination.

Pin worn during the reunion held in 1988 to mark 20 years since the 1968 Silent Vigil.

1988 Vigil Reunion Pin

1988 Vigil Reunion Pin

Twenty years later, participants gathered to commemorate the silent vigil.

The first issue of the Gay Morning Star, a zine written by and for LGBT students at Duke in 1973.  At the time, LGBT students were often highly closeted and publications such as this helped them find both a community and a voice at Duke.

1973 Gay Morning Star, page 1

1973 Gay Morning Star, page 1

The Gay Morning Star was the first newsletter written by and for members of the Duke LGBT community.  The publication helped LGBT students find both a community and voice on campus.

Marchers partake in a Take Back the Night demonstration on campus in the mid- to late-1980s.

Take Back the Night Demonstration, 1980s

Take Back the Night Demonstration, 1980s

President Terry Sanford talks to protesters at a graduation protest against the South African Apartheid.  Students built shantytowns on the quad and staged protests in hopes of pressuring the Board of Trustees to divest Duke assets from South African companies and companies sympathetic to apartheid.

President Terry Sanford at Apartheid Protest, 1986

President Terry Sanford at Apartheid Protest, 1986

As a result of student protests, the Trustees voted to divest university assets in those companies conducting business in South Africa or supportive of apartheid. This protest was held during graduation weekend in 1986.

Ribbons worn by protesters at a graduation protest against the South African Apartheid.  Students built shantytowns on the quad and staged protests in hopes of pressuring the Board of Trustees to divest Duke assets from South African companies and companies sympathetic to apartheid.

Ribbons Worn at Apartheid Protest, 1986

Ribbons Worn at Apartheid Protest, 1986

During the graduation weekend protests in 1986, graduates, students, and supporters wore ribbons to show their support of divesture.

Poster advertising Black Week at Duke in February, 1969.

Black Week poster, 1969

Black Week poster, 1969

The crowd outside the Allen Building on February 13, 1969, when police launched tear gas into the crowd in an attempt to disperse protesters.

Allen Building Takeover, 1969

Allen Building Takeover, 1969

Students and protesters are seen in front of a haze of tear gas during the Allen Building Takeover.  Though the students occupying the building left peacefully, police released tear gas into the crowd in an effort to disperse protesters.

A bumper sticker featuring Duke's "Love = Love" logo in support of LGBT students.

Love = Love

Love = Love

Beginning in 2007, the “Love = Love” logo was incorporated into t-shirts given out on National Coming Out Day by the Center for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender Life (now the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity).

Student Activism