Duke Black Alumni Magazine Articles

Scene from "Juneteenth"

December 9, 2020


Tom Kertscher

Film producer, director, and writer Neil Creque Williams ’06 wanted to make movies by the time he was seven, when in second grade, his teacher let him show his home videos during lunchtime.

December 9, 2020


Sterly Wilder

As time has marched on through this pandemic and our cool spring days became long and hot summer days that turned to fall and now winter, it is so hard to believe that what I used to refer to as Alumni World Headquarters has now become my dining-room table and my laptop.

December 9, 2020

WE ASKED Marjoleine Kars ’82, Ph.D. ’94, an associate professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and author of Blood on the River: A Chronicle of Mutiny and Freedom on the Wild Coast (The New Press), about how she found this untold story and what compelled her to write about it.

Illustration of roots

December 8, 2020

In the spring of 2018, I joined a group of student leaders and student activists in a protest on the stage of Page Auditorium during Duke’s Reunions Weekend. This weekend was a gilded one, as newly inaugurated President Vincent E. Price welcomed generations of Duke graduates to revel in just how far the university had come on so many accounts. In fact, this was a special celebration of the legacy of student activism.

September 29, 2020


Scott Huler

A few of our stories of realization came to us as spoken words, not as writing or images. We’re sharing them here as part of our podcast "The Devils' Share."

September 28, 2020

I was studying in my freshman dorm, Gilbert-Addoms on East Campus. 

A table away, a guy sat, also glancing occasionally at the TV, so we struck up a tentative conversation. He had on a worn T-shirt of pastel greens, blues, and pinks with an unfamiliar name in script. I couldn’t figure out how to pronounce it, and since we were having a pleasant talk, I asked, “What’s that mean?”

September 26, 2020


Erica Henry

This past May, as my immediate family gathered in my backyard to have a virtual high-school graduation for my middle son, eighteen years of memories rushed through my mind. It was at that moment that I realized my son had beat the odds and exceeded all the expectations that were made of him.

September 26, 2020

Turning points in life aren’t always recognizable. Sometimes they are a series of events, like mine, that last a year. The year I graduated from high school was a year of mini-revelations that were in fact harbingers of the life that lay ahead.

Black male child watching a white girl at an ice cream counter

September 26, 2020


Alonzo Felder

I grew up in the house my grandparents built in 1923. It sat on 31st Street and 12th Avenue South in the D7 section of the town of St. Petersburg, Florida, also known as “the Gas Plant,” according to the city’s redline map. I was four months old when they found Emmett Till’s body in Mississippi. A Jet magazine, with the photos of his mangled, tortured body, was always on the living-room coffee table.

Illustration of man on bench facing a wheelchair being held my medical person

September 26, 2020


Ashon Crawley

Facebook Statuses

Monday, August 22, 2011, at 1:28 AM: 

“in pain. :-(”


Monday, August 22, 2011, at 8:31 PM: 

“tylenol pm means i’ll be out in 3-2-zzzzzzZZzzzzZzzzzzzz...seeyall tomorrow…lol”


September 26, 2020

It’s been four years, but it feels like it all happened yesterday. The first week of July 2016 was tumultuous. The nation was rocked by two killings of Black men at the hands of law-enforcement officials. On July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling died in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, after an altercation with police officers. Philando Castile was shot and killed the next day after alerting a police officer that he was legally carrying a gun.

Two images by Fati Abubakar

July 22, 2020


Fati Abubakar

From the minute I arrived in the United States from Nigeria as an international student, my instinct was to look for an African community—a restaurant, a mosque, an association. And in the African diasporic community, I found happiness, a sense of belonging. However, as a photojournalist, I wondered why so many of us Africans leave home. What was the pull to the United States or to Europe?

Black Duke employees and white Duke employees, segregated at 1946 holiday party

July 22, 2020

I am writing two weeks after the murder of George Floyd, as protests against white supremacy take place across the country. Many Americans are reckoning with the impact of racism, especially as it relates to American history. I, too, am reckoning with the past, especially here at Duke. There are hard truths to accept in a place where many people feel warmly embraced—a place that many of us love.

Mychal Harrison

July 22, 2020


Mychal Harrison

This issue, I’m lending this space to the new DAA president, Mychal Harrison ’01, who has a special message for all alumni. —Sterly Wilder ’83, associate vice president, alumni affairs


July 22, 2020


Scott Huler

People who watched A Parks and Recreation Special, the one-off reunion show about the TV series’ characters coping with the COVID-19 lockdown (it ran in early May), knew they were seeing something remarkable. Sure, the laughs were there: The characters spent the half-hour special addressing their situation in the surreal and witty way that defined the show.

In 1967, protesters confront federal troops in Newark

July 22, 2020

Protests sparked by police actions. Anxiety over (invented) outside agitators. “Lawand- order” leaders drawn into competing crises. Media accounts—Newsweek, in one case—offering assessments that to be Black in America is to assume “that America is after all a racist society.”

The Common Wind

February 26, 2020


David Menconi

Even when published in book form, academic dissertations rarely get much attention. But “The Common Wind: Afro-American Currents in the Age of the Haitian Revolution,” which earned Julius S. Scott Ph.D. ’86 his doctorate, is the rare exception. After its completion in 1987, “The Common Wind” attracted interest from a few publishers. But Scott was not prepared to undertake the revisions that publishers and he himself felt were necessary.

images of various book covers

November 19, 2019

We asked Jason DeParle ’82, a New York Times reporter and author of A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century, about what he learned about global migration from following a family for thirty years.

August 7, 2019


Robb Chavis


The future doesn’t exist.

Don’t worry. I’m not trying to scare you. This isn’t some dystopian rant about how nothing matters. It’s the opposite. When I realized my future was just an idea I manufactured in my head, it helped me take bigger swings in my life. And I’m hoping my story will help you do the same.

May 14, 2019


“I don’t understand why we don’t understand grief,” says Kimberly Holmes Wiggins ’02.

It’s a frustration both immediate and ongoing for Wiggins. On April 16, 2016, her husband, Rasheed Wiggins ’99, M.B.A. ’10, was killed in a still unsolved hit-and-run crash in Orlando, Florida. That was the beginning of a new title for her—widow. The label, she says, was hard to accept, hard to even verbalize.

Nadia Orton '98

February 8, 2019


Janine Latus

Nadia Orton ’98 steps carefully around concrete vaults and sunken spots where pine caskets have collapsed inside century- old graves, her knee-high camo boots laced tight.

“I’ve had snakes and stray dogs come out of holes like that,” Orton says, nodding at a grave split in two by a fallen tree branch. Her family insists on the snake boots, a walking stick, a companion.

They tell her, “We know you love history, but you’re not supposed to be part of it yet.”

September 29, 2014

The establishment of The Duke Endowment in December 1924 kickstarted massive construction plans at the newly renamed Duke University. Several existing buildings were to be removed: the library, Alspaugh Hall, Craven Memorial Hall, and Crowell Science Building. W.G. Pearson, treasurer of Kittrell College, wrote to Robert L.

July 18, 2014

Fall 1974. Late again. Waiting for the bus on East Campus. Why aren’t there enough buses when it’s time for class—all right, a little past time for class—but there should be more buses! Finally arriving on West and then running through the woods to get to Gross Chem. Could any building be more appropriately named?

July 18, 2014


Clem Richardson

"It was a rough time for us, when they accused our boys of that heinous crime.”

We were in a midtown Manhattan hotel conference room in 2007, attendees at a Duke University Black Alumni Connection meeting, my first. I thought I had misheard the speaker, an impassioned former Duke athlete who by the end of his speech had pledged $60,000 to either DUBAC or the Reggie Howard Scholarship Fund—I no longer recall which.

But his words I never forgot.

50th logo

May 15, 2013

As part of the university’s 50th anniversary of black students at Duke, a number of regional events are setting the stage for alumni to explore the past and future of Duke’s commitment to issues of race relations and diversity.

Cowan: a call to level the educational playing field. Credit: Jared Lazarus.

May 14, 2013

During a rousing keynote speech at April’s Reunions Weekend, U.S. Senator William “Mo” Cowan ’91 deftly combined the personal and political as part of the university’s “Celebrating the Past, Charting the Future: Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke.” His talk in Page Auditorium touched on the legacy of African-American students at Duke, his own campus experiences, and the imperative of providing high-quality education for minority students.

February 13, 2013


Bridget Booher

Fifty years ago this fall, a black third-grader sat in the balcony of a Charlotte movie theater, segregated from the white children seeing the same movie, accepting as normal that his skin color meant he and his friends drank from separate water fountains, used separate bathrooms, rode at the back of the bus.

Honored: Gene Kendall, Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, and Nathaniel "Nat" White, the three surviving members of the first five undergraduates to integrate Duke in 1963. [Credit: Les Todd]

August 8, 2012


When Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke ’67, Gene Kendall ’67, and Nathaniel White ’67 arrived at Page Auditorium on Reunions Weekend in April, they assumed they would be watching the usual presentation of class gifts. But the three surviving members of Duke’s first cohort of African-American undergraduate students were in for a surprise.