Remembering Duke’s History of Radical Activism: One Week Until MLK

The Duke Vigil was a silent demonstration at Duke University, April 5 – 11, 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King. 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 Duke University employees.  Next Monday, on Martin Luther King Day, we will gather to remember this event, and to commemorate the example Martin Luther King Jr. has set for Duke students in the past and present eager to make big changes, in the face of great challenges, to a world that can be simultaneously unjust and deeply beautiful.

During parent’s weekend, when I sat at the Occupy tent, I talked to one parent who was a student himself at Duke during the late 60s.  We spoke about Duke’s history of activism.   He told me that when he was at Duke, that there was an incredible energy, that he was sure that our society was heading towards greater equality, greater opportunity, towards a rejection of greed and materialism and an embrace of the common ties that connect humans towards one another.

Next Monday, we will not only honor Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership in the fight for a better society, we will also bring a renewed energy to our own fights for a better society.   The current social activism of Duke groups including Duke Together Against Constitutional Discrimination (the coalition that Duke Democrats and students across the political spectrum is participating in to fight NC’s bigoted anti-civil-union amendment), Occupy Duke, Amnesty International, Duke Coalition for a Conflict Free Duke, Duke Students for  Humane Borders and Universities Allied for Essential Medicines will be highlighted.

Let’s show the rest of campus that Duke is still a place of young people with an enormous dedication to justice.  That our locus of existence at Duke lies beyond our resume, our social status, our fraternity/sorority/SLG/social group or GPA.  That we can and we will keep our communities and Duke and beyond moving forward.  


Sponsors:  The Duke Partnership for Service, Alpha Phi Omega, Circle K,  Duke LGBT Center, and the Duke Center for Civic Engagement

 Service.  Activism.  Justice.  Equality.  All words equated with the dream of Martin Luther King, a revolutionary who has inspired generations of students like us to address global inequality.  While Dr. King’s message inspired the world at large during his time, he had a particularly profound impact at Duke: after his passing in 1968, over 1000 Duke students came together to host a week-long sit-in/vigil to call for equality and honor his legacy of social action. 

Though we all – as present-day students —  possess different interests (global health, educational inequality, racial justice, etc.), we all share a common passion: to simply make a difference. As the nation prepares to honor MLK on January 16th, we believe the most appropriate outlet might be exactly what our student predecessors did 43 years ago: to come together and speak out.

 We’re mobilizing our friends to come together this day and do just that at the events below.  Join us in celebrating the legacy of Dr. King as we ask our ourselves and our fellow students at Duke the following question:  what kind of world do you dream of?

3:30 – 4:15 p.m.,

Schaefer Mall, 1st floor of the Bryan Center

A brief reception in the first floor of the Bryan center including a gallery of photos chronicling Duke’s own history of student activism, along with light refreshments and t-shirt distribution.  From here, we’ll migrate over to our next site….

4:15 – 5:00 p.m.

Chapel Quad

A collaborative sit-in following the example of students of 1968.  This our time to make a statement about our “dreams” of a better world, and build a community.  Students/student organizations encouraged to circulate their own action items (petitions, pamphlets, etc.), and will be given materials to make signs. Guest speakers will rally the group, and famous speeches by Dr. King will be played. 

7-9 pm

The Nexus Commons: 209 Anderson Apt. E on Central Campus

Join other students for dinner and for a discussion of the theme “Who can speak for whom?” In the context of an elite private university, what are the unique ethical dilemmas associated with advocacy and activism?  What can and cannot people, and what must those in privileged positions do to tackle inequalities and injustice?

Please change your facebook timeline cover to help raise awareness about Act to Honor

Published by Elena Botella

Elena Botella is a Duke Undergraduate in the Class of 2013, majoring in Economics and Math.

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