A group of Cherokee Indians were the first non-Caucasian students admitted to Trinity College.




Trinity College was relocated to Durham thanks to donations from Washington Duke and Julian S. Carr, both wealthy Methodists. Carr donated the land for the current-day East Campus, and Duke contributed $100,000 with the stipulation that women would be equal to men.




Trinity College becomes Duke University in memoriam to James B. Duke’s family at the insistence of then-President William Preston Few.




The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), an early civil rights group, was founded. It expanded to have chapters all over country by the 1960s and would go on to organize actions like the March on Washington and Freedom Rides.




Faculty at Duke Divinity School begin petitioning for diversity.




May 17

Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, declares segregated public schools unconstitutional paving the way for integration.





December 1

Rosa Parks ignites the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama and a young preacher, Martin Luther King Jr., is propelled to the forefront of the movement.




The University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia integrate.




September 4

The state’s National Guard blocks nine African-American high school students from attending classes at Little Rock High School in Arkansas. The students were eventually admitted under U.S. Army protection.


Protesters challenged segregation during the Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in. Seven were arrested on trespassing charges and pled not guilty. On appeal, the case went to the state’s supreme court and the protestors were fined.




Feb. 1

A series of Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C., eventually led the store to reverse its segregation policy.  In 2010 the site of the sit-ins became the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.


Feb. 16

Martin Luther King, Jr., visits Durham’s Woolworth and gives speech at White Rock Baptist Church.




March 8

The board of trustees announces that students will be admitted to the university graduate and professional schools without regard to race, creed, or national origin.


March 9

The Duke Board of Trustees comes to a resolution to integrate professional and graduate schools, “without regard to race, creed or national origin,” effective September 1, 1961.



Walter Thaniel Johnson, Jr., and David Robinson are the first African-American students to enroll in Duke Law School. They both graduated in 1964.


Ruben Lee Speaks is the first African American student to enroll in Duke Divinity School; Speaks is admitted as a special student, as he has already received a divinity degree elsewhere.


Walter Thaniel Johnson, Jr., and David Robinson are the first African-American students to enroll in Duke Law School.





White students from Duke and the University of North Carolina join Durham’s black students to protest the city’s segregated theaters. The Carolina Theater rejected a proposal from the Durham NAACP chapter to negotiate its desegregation. Protesters began “round-robin” demonstrations, in which demonstrators lined up at the box office and, one after another, asked for tickets, were refused, and went to the back of the line.


April 27

Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Emory University in Georgia also integrate.


June 2

The Board of Trustees announces that undergraduate students will be admitted without regard to race. “This was not a unanimous decision; there were abstentions from the vote, and a good deal of silent unhappiness among alumni and others in the region,” wrote President Douglas M. Knight.



Matthew A. Zimmerman and Donald Ballard are the first two African-American students to enroll in the Divinity School as official degree candidates; James Eaton, Ida Stephens Owens (Physiology Ph.D.’67), and Odell Richardson Reuben (Religion Ph.D. ’69) are the first African-American students to enroll in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


October 15

Cuban Missile Crisis begins.





Practicing nonviolence, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference strategically challenges segregation in Birmingham, Ala., one the most racially segregated cities in the South.  The city confronts the young protesters, many of them children, with fire hoses and dogs, filling the city’s jails.


May 16

The University of Alabama integrates admitting African-American students Viviane Malone and James Hood.



Duke students boycott segregationist policies of Sears Roebuck, Walgreens and the Carolina Theater in Durham.



Durham’s movie theaters are desegregated.


June 12

Mississippi NAACP organizer Medgar Evers murdered in Jackson, Mississippi.


August 28

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, one of the largest political rallies in U.S. history, takes place in Washington, D.C. While standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.



Five African-American undergraduates enter as first-year students: Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke, Mary Mitchell Harris, Gene Kendall, Cassandra Smith Rush, and Nathaniel White, Jr.


James Roland Law entered Duke’s Graduate School as a psychology degree candidate. With Ida Stephens Owens he becomes the first black student to receive a Ph.D. from Duke.


Delano Meriwether is the first African-American student to enroll in Duke’s School of Medicine.


Federal court orders Durham’s public schools to adopt freedom-of-choice desegregation plan.


Sept. 15

Four little black girls are killed in a church bombing at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.


November 22

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Tex.




April 12

Samuel D. Proctor is the first African American to preach at Duke Chapel.


Mary Mitchell Harris is the first African-American student to be placed on the dean’s list at Duke.


June 21

While attempting to register voters during Freedom Summer, black CORE activist James Chaney, and two Jewish students from New York, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, were arrested and murdered by Klansmen in Mississippi.


July 2

Civil Rights Act of 1964 which bans discrimination based on “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in employment practices and public accommodations, is enacted.


Nigerian student Anthony Oyewole transfers to Duke as a junior.


Nov. 17

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the Duke community at Page Auditorium.




Feb. 21

Malcolm X assassinated.


March 7

First of three attempts by civil rights organizers to march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. to bring attention to voting rights.


August 6

Voting Rights Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.


August 11

Riots break out in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles due to police discrimination and policies that enforced residential segregation.




Anthony Oyewole is the first black undergraduate to earn his degree from Duke, after transferring as a junior in 1964 from a Nigerian university.


Stokely Carmichael introduces the concept of “black power.” The Black Panther party, inspired by Malcolm X, rises in popularity.


Samuel DuBois Cook becomes Duke’s first African-American faculty member. He enters the political science department as a visiting professor and subsequently is appointed a full tenured professor.




Ida Stephens Owens becomes the first black student to receive a biology and physiology Ph.D.



Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke is voted the first African-American May Queen.


Reuben-Cooke, Mary Mitchell Harris and Nathaniel White Jr. become the first African Americans to receive their undergraduate degrees at Duke.


June 13

Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Court.


Bishop Philip R. Cousin becomes the first African-American faculty member at the Divinity School.


Nov. 13 

Hope Valley Study-In: Thirty-five members of the Afro-American Society stage a day-long study-in protest in the lobby of then-university president Douglas Knight’s office, denouncing the use of segregated facilities by student groups, as well as the membership of key university officers, including Knight, in the segregated Hope Valley Country Club.




April 3

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his final speech, “I’ve Seen The Mountaintop”


April 4

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, TN


April 5-11

Silent Vigil: Following a memorial service for Martin Luther King Jr. the day after his assassination, hundreds of students — black and white — gathered on West Campus to protest Duke’s discriminatory policies. The primary issues that emerged were unionization, wages, and working conditions of the maids, janitors, and dining hall workers. By the time the vigil ended on April 11, an agreement was reached for increases in salary for the workers.


The Afro-American Society is established as the first black student association. Later, the name of the organization is to change first to Association of African Students and then, in 1976, to Black Student Alliance.


African-American students present the administration with twelve points of concern, including black enrollment levels, the low number of black faculty members and the continuing membership of key university officials in segregated facilities.






Under pressure from black students, President Knight withdraws from Durham’s segregated Hope Valley Country Club.


Black Week speakers include local black community leader and organizer Howard Fuller, activists Dick Gregory and Fannie Lou Hamer, attorney Maynard Jackson, author LeRoi Jones and historian James Turner.


Feb. 12

Academic Council appoints a committee to address concerns/demands of students.


Feb. 13

Allen Building Takeover: Sixty members of the Afro-American Society occupy the Allen Building for eight hours and present the university administration with a list of demands. Nearly seventy Durham city policemen, twenty-five highway patrolmen, and twelve Durham County sheriff’s deputies made arrests and used tear gas, with National Guard troops on standby off-campus.


Feb. 16

Black Studies Program is instituted at Duke after much discussion and delay. Walter Burford is to be named program head in 1970.


Office of Black Affairs is established. Later, its name is to change to Office of Minority Affairs, and, in 1993, to Office of Intercultural Affairs.


August 15

The Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a three-day festival, is held on a 600-acre farm in the Catskills of upstate New York and features popular rock, blues and folk musicians.







The Woman’s college merges with the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences.






Brenda Becton, Karen Bethea-Shields and Evelyn Omega Cannon are the first black women to attend Duke Law School.


C. E. Boulware, a mathematics professor at North Carolina Central University, becomes Duke’s first black trustee.


April 12

The university’s first predominantly black fraternity, the Omega Zeta chapter of Omega Psi Phi, is founded. One year later, the university gives the fraternity its own housing.




April 5

Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta is established at Duke as the first recognized black sorority.


April 21

Black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha is established at Duke.


Sept. 24

One hundred students protest and present the administration with grievances and demands for action. Their priorities include departmentalization of the Black Studies Program and increasing the number of black faculty’ teaching black studies courses.


Dec. 7

Black fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha is established at Duke.




The Association of African Students is renamed the Black Student Alliance, giving the group a stronger political mission. The BSA communicates the needs of black students to university administration and to the entire Duke student body.


Reginaldo Howard becomes the first African American elected to the position of Associated Students of Duke University President. He is killed in an automobile accident before the beginning of his term in his senior year and the Reginaldo Howard Memorial Scholarship is established in his honor. A $l,000-per-year stipend for four years is awarded annually to 10 matriculating African-American students. The scholarship is supported by Duke’s general operating funds.



Sigrid Taylor becomes Duke’s first black female athlete when she joins the women’s basketball team.




Frank Emory is the second elected but first to serve as Duke’s first black student body president. He is now a member of the Board of Trustees.



Iota Xi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi, a black fraternity, is founded at Duke.


Benjamin Chavis is admitted to Duke Divinity School while serving the fourth year of a jail term following his controversial conviction in the ‘Wilmington 10’ firebombing case. The conviction would later be overturned by a federal court of appeals in 1980, the same year Chavis received his master’s degree from Duke.


Nov. 3

Greensboro Massacre: Members of the Communist Party and the Ku Klux Klan clash during an anti-Klan rally in Greensboro, N.C. Klan gunfire kills five demonstrators. A court later clears Klan members of murder charges.




Esteemed historian John Hope Franklin begins his career at Duke, joining the history department faculty and later the law school faculty. In 1997 he becomes the chair of President Clinton’s White House race initiative.


Nov. 9

Duke University Black Alumni Connection (DUBAC) is created as an affinity alumni group of the larger Duke Alumni Association.



Sept. 23

The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture is established. The center is named for jazz musician Mary Lou Williams, who had been a popular artist-in-residence on campus for several years.




Duke’s faculty council resolves to double the number of black professors within the next five years.




January 15

Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday is established as a national holiday.


May 3

Duke’s Board of Trustees votes to have the university divest from South Africa.




A portrait of Julian F. Abele, the chief architect of the Duke campus, is unveiled and later hung in the Allen Building. His racial identity was not commonly known until 1988. An Outstanding Achievement Award in Abele’s honor is established for professional students and faculty.




April 21

The Academic Council passes a resolution to adopt the Black Faculty Initiative, which mandates the hiring of more black faculty in each department.


Oct. 24

The Graduate School sponsors the “Black on White Symposium” to address racism in education in general, with a special focus on racism at Duke.




Duke receives a $500,000 anonymous grant for minority scholarships, provided that Duke matches the funds over the next five years.


Chester Jenkins becomes first black mayor of Durham.




Aug. 27

Leonard C. Beckum is hired as the first African-American officer of the university, and is given the title university vice president and vice provost.




President H. Keith H. Brodie designates the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday as an official holiday for the university and medical center, effective January 1992.


Janet Smith Dickerson is hired as the first woman and first African-American vice president of student affairs.






Thirtieth Anniversary Committee is established by President Brodie to oversee the commemoration of thirty years of African-American students at Duke. The “Legacy” book is produced.





The John Hope Franklin Research Center, named in honor of the distinguished historian, is founded and seeks to collect, preserve, and promote the use of library materials bearing on the history of Africa and people of African descent.




April 14


Karla FC Holloway is appointed as head of African-American Studies, reviving the program with new faculty hires. A certificate in graduate studies is approved and the number of courses offered is doubled. The program becomes the first of its kind in the nation to have independent tenure lines.





Chancellor for Health Affairs Ralph Snyderman, M.D., signs the Institutional Commitment to Diversity pledging Duke’s continued efforts to further establish a diverse workforce and a welcoming environment.


March 24

Samuel Dubois Cook Society formed.




The John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, a consortium of programs, opens.


Ralph Bunche Institute, funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the American Political Science Association, moves to Duke. The institute simulates the academic rigor of graduate school for young African American, Hispanic and Native American scholars.






Conservative writer David Horowitz places ads in university papers nationwide, including The Chronicle, arguing that reparations for descendants of slaves is inherently racist. Students protest.




Oct. 1
Dr. Haywood Brown becomes Duke’s first African-American chair of a major department, Obstetrics-Gynecology.




Feb. 1

Dr. Danny Jacobs is hired as the first African-American chair of the surgery department.




Duke’s Department of African & African American Studies is elevated to department status.


A one-year postdoctoral fellowship in honor of political scientist Samuel Dubois Cook is established for social science scholars.




July 1

Political scientist Paula McClain is elected the first African-American chair of the Academic Council, the university’s top faculty governing body.




July 1

The Board of Trustees elects Daniel T. Blue, Jr., a Duke Law School grad and veteran North Carolina legislator, as the board’s first African-American chair.



Glenn Lanham becomes the first black head coach and first black wrestling coach


The 50th Anniversary Committee is established by President Brodhead to oversee the commemoration of 50 years of African-American students at Duke.


May 8

Paula McClain is named the first African-American dean of the Graduate School.


Sept. 1

Luke Powery becomes the first African-American dean of Duke Chapel.