Robert T. Osborn papers, 1963-1967

Navigate the Collection

Using These Materials Teaser

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials

Collection is open for research.
More about accessing and using these materials...


Osborn, Robert T.
Robert Osborn was a Professor of Religion at Duke University. His collection includes clippings, correspondence and trial-related documents relating to a civil rights protest in Chapel Hill in January 1964.
0.25 Linear Feet
100 Items
Material in English
Collection ID:
University Archives Record Group:
29 -- Papers of Faculty, Staff, and Associates
29 -- Papers of Faculty, Staff, and Associates > 02 -- Individuals


Scope and content:

Contains clippings, correspondence, subpoenas, summons and statements relating to a January 1964 civil rights demonstration in Chapel Hill, and subsequent trials in Hillsboro. Correspondence and court documents are photocopies.

Biographical / historical:

An ordained Methodist minister, Robert Tappan Osborn was born in 1926 in Seattle, Washington. He received his A.B. from U.C.L.A. in 1946 and his B.D. from Garrett Biblical Institute in 1950, and spent a year at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. In 1954 he was awarded the Ph.D. from Drew University and joined the faculty of the Duke University Department of Religion that same year, where he taught until his retirement in 1997. He served a term as chair of that department. His research focused on the field of contemporary theology and Christian thought and his publications include the books "Freedom in Modern Theology" (1967) and "The Barmen Declaration as a Paradigm for a Theology of the American Church" (1991).

Osborn became active in the civil rights movement during the 1960s, advocating for Christian involvement in issues of racial justice. In January 1964, he and four other Duke faculty members (Professor William Wynn of the Psychology Department, Professor Fred Herzog and Professor Harmon Smith, both of Duke Divinity School, and Professor Peter Klopfer of the Zoology Department) joined a group including students and faculty from UNC and NCCU (white and African American) for a restaurant sit-in at Watts Grill in Chapel Hill. The professors were arrested on counts of trespassing; and the ensuing, drawn-out trials in Hillsborough ultimately led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of Klopfer vs. the State of North Carolina. In the final days of his term as governor, Terry Sanford (later to become president of Duke University) pardoned the professors.

Acquisition information:
The Robert T. Osborn Papers were received by the University Archives as a gift in 2005, 2013.
Processing information:

Processed by Jessica Wood, October 2006

Encoded by Sherrie Bowser, November 2006

Updated by Kimberly Sims, May 2013

Accessions A2005-50 and UA2013-0017 are described in this finding aid.

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.

African Americans -- North Carolina -- Chapel Hill -- Political activity
African Americans -- North Carolina -- History -- 1964-
Civil rights demonstrations
Civil disobedience
Duke University -- Faculty
Duke University. Religion Dept
Wynn, William
Osborn, Robert T.


Using These Materials

Using These Materials Links:

Using These Materials


Collection is open for research.

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.

Before you visit:
Please consult our up-to-date information for visitors page, as our services and guidelines periodically change.
Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Robert T. Osborn Papers, Duke University Archives, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.