Allen Building Takeover Oral History collection, 1985

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Yannella, Don
On February 13, 1969, Duke University students in the Afro-American Society occupied the the main administration building to bring attention to the needs of black students. These needs included an African American studies department, a black student union, and increased enrollment and financial support for black students. This and subsequent events became known as the Allen Building Takeover. The Allen Building Takeover Oral History Collection includes oral histories conducted by Duke student Don Yannella in 1985 leading to his thesis Race Relations at Duke University and the Allen Building Takeover. The collection includes the original interview tapes, transcripts of the some of the interviews, and use copies of several of the original recordings.
1.5 Linear Feet
Materials are in English.
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
31 -- Student/Campus Life
31 -- Student/Campus Life > 04 -- Student Organizations- Religious and Cultural Organizations


Scope and content:

The Allen Building Takeover Oral History Collection includes materials collected by Duke student Don Yannella while writing his senior thesis in 1985. The oral histories offer first-hand accounts of and reactions to the Takeover from Duke students, staff, administrators, and members of the Durham community.

The interviews were recorded on cassette tapes, and these original tapes are in Box 1. Access copies and transcripts for many of the interviews are included; listening copies are in Box 2 and transcripts are in Box 3.

Biographical / historical:

On the morning of February 13, 1969, between 50 and 75 black students entered the Allen Building and proceeded to barricade and occupy it. They renamed the building the Malcolm X Liberation School. The students issued a list of demands to the administration, [which included an accredited African-American Studies Department, a black dorm, a black student union, an increase in enrollment and financial support for black students, protection from police harassment, and better working conditions for non-academic staff of the University]. Provost Marcus Hobbs read a statement to the students at about 3:30 PM, urging them to leave the building within one hour to begin a peaceful discussion of the issues. Sometime after 5 o'clock, after a warning from Provost Hobbs that they would face legal ramifications for staying, the students decided to exit. Although the exit was peaceful, a large crowd of mostly white students had gathered outside the building during the day, and this crowd and the police became entangled. The police fired tear gas on the students.

Immediately following the police action, students met to discuss how to proceed. Many students and faculty were upset by the administration's support of the police action; other students and faculty felt that the takeover of the Allen Building was lawless and disruptive. Those who supported the Takeover called for a three day strike on campus and offered alternative classes. Students opposed to the Takeover urged fellow students to attend classes as normal. The administration attempted to calm the campus and address some of the demands posed by the Takeover participants. President Knight addressed Duke on the campus radio station, WDBS.

Afro-American Society and administration members met several times to begin forming an African-American Studies program. The two parties could not reach an agreement on what type of committee should oversee the program. On March 10, a group of students marched to downtown Durham along with students from other colleges to protest the situation. The next day, March 11, 1969, students again went to downtown Durham and marched with other students and Durham residents. The march turned violent, with store windows smashed and other damage to property. The mayor put a curfew on the city for several days.

Dozens of Duke's black students threatened to leave campus following the lack of agreement on the African-American Studies program. They instead planned to attend the Malcolm X Liberation University, a newly-developed school led by community activist Howard Fuller. However, the students soon reversed their decision and decided to remain at Duke University. On March 19, a University Hearing Committee found the students who had occupied the building guilty of violating university regulations. All defendants were sentenced to one year of probation.

In 1985, Duke student Don Yannella conducted oral history interviews with a number of individuals at Duke who were involved with or present during the events of the Allen Building Takeover. He used the information gathered in these interviews to write a senior honors thesis entitled Race Relations at Duke University and the Allen Building takeover.

[Taken from text written by Valerie Gillispie as part of the web exhibit, Campus Protest: Duke University, 1967-1969.]

Acquisition information:
Collection was received as a gift in 1985.
Processing information:

Processed by University Archives staff as part of the Allen Building Takeover Collection.

Materials arranged and described as separate collection by Tracy M. Jackson, March 2016.

Accession described in this collection guide: UA1985-101.

Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Use of audiotapes and videotapes from this collection requires the creation of reference copies. Reference copies for some materials may have been made, and if a reference copy exists, it is noted in this finding aid. To arrange for the creation of reference copies of other items, please contact University Archives staff. Although these recordings are now stored in a stable environment, their condition and playback quality is unknown.

Portions of this collection are restricted due to the absence of a release form from the persons interviewed.

Terms of access:

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.

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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Allen Building Takeover Oral History Collection, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.