Silent Vigil (1968) and Allen Building Takeover (1969) Audio Recordings

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About the Digital Collection

In April 1968, following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., hundreds of Duke students gathered on Abele Quad, remaining in place for several days in a civil rights demonstration now known as the Silent Vigil. Ten months later, on February 13, 1969, students from Duke’s Afro-American Society occupied the Allen Building, home to Duke’s administration, calling for advances or changes in twelve areas related to African-American student life.

These two demonstrations, among the most documented moments in Duke history, are a perennial source of interest for research, reflection, and reevaluation. The paper-based Allen Building Takeover collection is frequently used in research. In addition, audio recordings made by close observers of (and sometimes participants in) both protests have helped researchers to plot these complex and changing sequences of events. These audio recordings, 44 from the student-run radio station WDBS and five from a faculty-student research project, are digitized here.

WDBS, Duke’s student-run radio station, was on the scene during both demonstrations. They were an essential source of information for students, faculty, and staff, Durham community members, and even the nation as they broadcast interviews, recordings of forums and speakers, and on-the-ground recaps of protest actions. WDBS’s news staff was well aware that they were actively documenting pivotal events in Duke history; they took care to donate recordings of their news broadcasts, as well as the unedited recordings of interviews, speeches, and community gatherings, to the Duke Libraries, where they are now part of the WDBS records at the Duke University Archives.

Also conscious of the historical importance of the Silent Vigil as it unfolded, anthropology professor Weston La Barre asked an unidentified former student with connections to the Vigil organizers to record (with the students’ permission) the demonstration’s happenings, ranging from public events like speeches and press conferences to behind-the-scenes discussions about the demonstration’s aims that took place while the students were occupying President Douglas M. Knight’s house.

Transcripts have been prepared for each recording, although the quality of many of the recordings has made exact transcription, as well as identification of speakers, difficult. We’ll continue to make corrections to the transcripts as we become aware of them, and encourage you to send us your own corrections. Please contact us at

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