Guide to the Duke Vigil Collection, 1968 - 1988
The Duke Vigil was a silent demonstration at Duke University, April 5-11, 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The collection features announcements, flyers, publications, handouts, correspondence, reports, ephemera, press releases, clippings, a diary, sound recordings and WDBS broadcasts, and photographs. Individuals prominent within the collection include John Blackburn, Kenneth Clark, John Strange, David Henderson, Duke President Douglas Knight, Samuel DuBois Cook, and Wright Tisdale. Major subjects include student demonstrations, race relations, Duke University employee wages and labor union, and the anniversary and reunion of the Vigil in 1988. Materials range in date from 1968 to 1988. English.
- Record Group
- Duke Vigil collection
- 1968 - 1988
- Duke University. University Archives
- 2 Linear Feet, 1,500 Items
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
The collection features a variety of materials documenting the Vigil at Duke University from April 5-11, 1968. These materials originate from numerous sources and were compiled by University Archives staff for teaching and research. The first series, Subject files, contains primary documents, including announcements, flyers, publications, handouts, correspondence, reports, and ephemera; media coverage including press releases and clippings; personal papers and a diary about the Vigil from John Blackburn, Kenneth Clark, John Strange, and David Henderson; and analyses and materials relating to the anniversary and reunion of the Vigil in 1988.
The Sound recordings series features five audiotapes made by a Duke student during the Vigil. Additional sound recordings can be found in the Related collections series. These collections include the WDBS broadcast recordings and the University Archives Photograph Collection, and they provide further audio and visual documentation of the Vigil. The WDBS records feature eleven audiotapes of radio broadcasts on events during the Vigil. The Photograph Collection includes over twenty black and white photographs of the Vigil, one color photograph, and numerous negatives, contact prints, and slides.
Access to the Collection
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
Portions of these materials are restricted by donor request.
Use & Permissions
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Duke Vigil Collection, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
This series, Subject files, features a variety of materials concerning the Duke Vigil that have been collected by the University Archives staff for teaching and research. Subject files include working papers of academic units and university committees, others contain collections of speeches, songs, memorabilia and other materials from the Vigil. The subject files are organized into the following subseries: Primary documents, Media coverage, Personal papers, and Remembrance. Primary documents include announcements, flyers, publications, handouts, correspondence, reports, and ephemera. The media coverage subseries features clippings and photocopied clippings from campus, local, state, and national newspapers and magazines. Included in the Personal papers subseries are materials about the Vigil collected and written by faculty members John Blackburn, Kenneth Clark, and John Strange and by student David Henderson. The final subseries, Remembrance, features analyses of the Vigil written during 1968, as well as clippings relating to the anniversary and reunion of the Vigil in 1988.
Oversize Folder 25 stored in MC 29. Duplicates of some of the Chronicle reports can be found in Oversize Box 4.
This series contains five audiotapes made by a Duke student during the Vigil. The student took a tape recorder with him to all of the events of the Vigil and recorded what was said. He then re-recorded the tapes, adding his own comments to them in order to more fully describe the Vigil demonstrations. The student gave these final tapes to Dr. Weston LaBarre, who transferred them to the Library. Additional sound recordings can be found in the Related collections series.
Cassette listening copies of all five audiotapes have been made for patron use. These reference cassettes are stored in Box 2, while the original audiotapes are stored in Box 3.
Two collections, the WDBS broadcast recordings and the University Archives Photograph Collection, provide audio and visual documentation of the Vigil. The WDBS records feature eleven audiotapes of radio broadcasts on events during the Vigil. The Photograph Collection includes over twenty black and white photographs of the Vigil, one color photograph, and numerous negatives, contact prints, and slides.
WDBS was founded at Duke University in 1950 as a student-run AM station sponsored by the student government. The station received an FM license in 1971. Due to financial difficulties, WDBS ended in 1983.
This group of broadcast recordings features reports about the The Vigil and subsequent events. Both the original audiotapes of the broadcasts and the cassette reference copies of the audiotapes are stored with the Duke Vigil Collection. Reference cassettes can be found in Box 2, original audiotapes in Box 3.
Speeches by John Strange and others in the Alumni Lounge as the march to President Knight's home begins. Statements by Dean William Griffith, Tupp Blackwell, Ted Minah, Dave Birkhead, Chris Jossi, Douglas Knight, Jack Boger, and others.
Pres. Knight at home Friday night; talks with Jack Boger. Paul Robert Conroy with Dave Birkhead. Ken Ross for WDBS with 20 minutes of Dr. Knight talking to the Vigil group in his home Friday night.
Pres. Knight at home Friday night, answering questions from the group concerning non-academic employees, their wages, and his membership in the Hope Valley Country Club. Press conference, Monday, 12:30pm in the Varsity 'D' room: John Strange, Bunny Small, John Kinney. [In spots, the tape is difficult to understand because of a faulty microphone connection.]
Press conference, continued: John Strange, Bunny Small, John Kinney. Dr. Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech played several times to the assembled vigil on the quad. Wednesday, April 10, 1968, main quad: John Strange and Wright Tisdale addresses, singing of "We shall overcome."
Huck Gutman on Local 77 strike. Questions on the 4 demands. WDBS: Ted Minah and Bindewald statements on strike, Ted Minah appeal for workers. Jack Boger, John Strange, Dave Hunt statements.
Dave Hunt, John Kinney, Jack Boger, Peter Brandon for Local 77, Paul Conroy, interview with Chris Dulaney, John Strange "move to the quad." Sunday: Bunny Small on the quad, Bill Veatch interviews with Marc Kaplan, Peter Brandon, Griffith.
John Strange reading from Dr. King, Bunny Small recap, John Kinney, general announcements, comments on black students, Huck Gutman reading Thoreau, Algerian grad student.
Singing led by Nick Atkins, announcements by Food Committee Chairman Lucy Brady, Recording of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech (1963).
Address by Samuel DuBois Cook to the assembled Vigil (10 min.), Statement to the students of Duke University, read by Board of Trustees Chairman Wright Tisdale (5 min.)
Ira Sanford, Joan Baez, David Harris.
Questions and answers from the assembled Vigil to: Ira Sanford, Joan Baez, David Harris.
The University Archives Photograph Collection consists of a variety of images of Duke University people, places, and activities. This collection features three folders of photographs, negatives, slides and contact prints from the Duke Vigil. Photographs depict participants assembled on the main quad, as well as speakers, performers, and other events.
Sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, Duke University students organized a peaceful protest for racial equality that left few students, faculty, administrators or employees unaffected. Up to 1,400 students slept on the Chapel Quad, food services and housekeeping employees went on strike, and most students boycotted the dining halls in support of the employees.
The protest began Friday evening, April 5, when 450 students marched three miles to University President Douglas Knight's House with the following four demands:
- That he sign an advertisement to be published in the Durham Morning Herald calling for a day of mourning;
- That he press for the $1.60 wage for University employees;
- That he resign from the then-segregated Hope Valley Country Club;
- That he appoint a committee of students, faculty and workers to make recommendations concerning collective bargaining and union recognition at Duke.
Knight met the students and faculty members on his front lawn, and the group entered his house. While Knight negotiated with the group's leaders, the rest of the students sat in the hallway and sang protest songs. The students spent the night in the president's house at his invitation. Saturday afternoon, Knight attended and spoke at a memorial service for King in Duke Chapel. Following the service, 350 students and faculty marched to Knight's home to support the students still inside the house. Knight promised to release an official statement within 72 hours, but Vice President for Student Affairs William Griffith and Knight's physician William Anlyan told the group the president was about to collapse from exhaustion and could no longer participate in the negotiations.
The Duke Vigil officially began the next morning, Sunday, April 7, as protesters moved onto Chapel Quad. Coordinators demanded strict adherence to a set of rules for the demonstration. In their straight rows of 50 people, the students were not allowed to talk to each other or the press. Rigidly ordered, the quad protest was meant to symbolize the non-violent intentions of the group. The leaders continued their discussions with administrators, and Sunday night 546 people slept on the quad. Boycotts continued, and by Tuesday night more than 1,400 demonstrators assembled for the Vigil. Folk singer Joan Baez spoke to the rally, and Senator Robert Kennedy sent a telegram of support to the students.
The next day, Wednesday, professor Samuel DuBois Cook addressed the students, and then Wright Tisdale, chair of the Board of Trustees, told the crowd the trustees and students shared the same concerns. He said the University would begin paying a $1.60 minimum wage and mentioned Knight's proposed committee to examine racial concerns. Following his remarks, Tisdale linked hands with the student protesters and joined in the singing of "We Shall Overcome." The demonstrators filed into Page Auditorium, where professors read an Academic Council resolution and tried to persuade the students to end the protest since the Board of Trustees had met the major part of their demands. The students agreed to drop their insistence on Knight's Durham Morning Herald advertisement and resignation from Hope Valley Country Club. After midnight on Thursday, April 11, 1968, the students decided to continue their boycott of the dining halls and pledged to support the workers' union, as they brought the demonstration to an end.
[Portions of this text from 'Profound History': Students answered violence with the Silent Vigil by Laura Trivers, published in The Chronicle, April 4, 1988.]
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Blackburn, John O., 1929-
- Cook, Samuel DuBois, 1927-
- Clark, Kenneth Willis, 1898-
- Duke University -- Administration
- Duke University. University Archives
- Duke University. Presidents
- Duke University -- Students -- Political activity
- Duke University -- History
- Henderson, David Martin
- Knight, Douglas M., 1921-2005
- King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 -- Assassination
- Strange, J. H. (John H.)
- WDBS (Radio station : Durham, N.C.)
- Civil rights demonstrations
- Collective bargaining -- College employees -- North Carolina -- Durham
- Students -- Political activity
- Student movements -- North Carolina
- Student participation in administration
- Wages -- College employees -- North Carolina -- Durham
The Duke Vigil Collection was received by the University Archives as a transfer in 1968-1971.
Processed by University Archives staff, completed December 1989.
Encoded by Jill Katte, February 2004
Updated by Molly Bragg, July 2011