Last month, at the launch party for Point of Reckoning, I had the opportunity to answer questions about the book posed by Gisela Fosado, my editor at Duke University Press. You can watch the video of the Q&A below. If you have any of your own questions, please feel free to contact me here or in the comments below.


On the evening of February 16th, we hosted a launch event for POINT OF RECKONING and below is a video of the portion where I read from the book.

Until the fall of 1963, Duke University was segregated, observing all of the laws, regulations, and customs that defined the Jim Crow south. Duke was a school endowed, designed, and operated by white people for the exclusive benefit of an all-white student body, faculty, and administration. The vast majority of Black people on campus were service workers who were paid barely subsistence wages.

At least theoretically, this could have changed in…


On February 13, 1969, members of the Duke Afro-American Society took bold, direct action to force the university to respond to their demands for racial change. Frustrated by years of delay, they occupied portions of the first floor of the Allen Building — Duke’s main administration building. They wanted change now. “We looked at it as an operation,” student leader Chuck Hopkins explained. “No more of these long meetings, no more of these long periods between meetings. We wanted to get people’s attention and get them to address [our] issues.”

By nightfall, police had been summoned to clear the building…


“The Crisis Year” is how the The Chronicle of Higher Education described 2020 in higher education. The Covid-19 pandemic forced schools to implement operational changes of unprecedented scope and to do so on the fly. “Covid-19 touched off a financial wildfire for colleges,” the Chronicle of Higher Education wrote, pushing many “to the edge.”

At the same time, the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, together with the worldwide protests that followed, forced these same institutions to confront a racial reckoning. Schools across the country promised radical racial change. At colleges and universities around the country, leaders committed their…


Publication date for POINT OF RECKONING: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University is just around the corner and we thought it was a good time to talk more about the story and ideas behind the book. We put together this Q&A with Ted Segal in the hope that it would spark further conversations about the history of racial justice at historically white colleges and universities (HWCUs). If you have any questions for Ted, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Q: You were a corporate lawyer for many years and then turned to writing. …


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Page Auditorium on November 13, 1964.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Page Auditorium on November 13, 1964.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Page Auditorium on November 13, 1964.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaking in Page Auditorium on November 13, 1964.In November 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Duke University in Page Auditorium. His remarks captured the tenor of the civil rights protests in Durham and throughout the south. Acknowledging that lagging standards existed among Blacks in some areas, King argued that “economic deprivation and social isolation will breed crime and illiteracy in any society.” “Every person of good will,” he declared, “must be made to see that segregation must die and that it is a cancer of the body politic that must be cured.” King urged…


Each fall, a new freshman class of Black undergraduates enrolls at Duke. They enter an institution that Duke President Vincent Price has acknowledged has “often not fully embraced” its mission ”to be agents of progress in advancing racial equity and justice.” They encounter, according to Price, “systems of racism and inequality that have shaped the lived experiences of too many members of the Duke community.” Earlier this year, Price outlined an expansive anti-racism agenda at the school. …


Since this past summer, historically white universities throughout the nation have sought to reckon with their long histories of anti-Black racism. At Duke, president Vincent Price committed to taking “transformative action now toward eliminating the systems of racism and inequality that have shaped the lived experiences of too many members of the Duke community.” Likewise at Princeton, president Christopher Eisgruber acknowledged that “racist assumptions from the past . . . remain embedded in structures of the university itself.

Robert King, Assistant Secretary in the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, read Princeton’s important statement and saw…


The photographs on the cover of POINT OF RECKONING: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University, designed by Matt Tauch, track the arc of desegregation and Black student activism at the school during the Sixties. The cover uses historical images from the Duke Archives that center on the events at Duke University but does so with an immediacy that links the book — and the story it tells — to the present moment.


Wilhelmina Reuben, May Queen 1967, leans on a stone column with a plaque that says, “Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Main Entrance.”
Wilhelmina Reuben, May Queen 1967, leans on a stone column with a plaque that says, “Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Main Entrance.”
Wilhelmina Reuben, May Queen, 1967 (Duke University Archives).

On September 26, 2020, Duke University announced that the Sociology-Psychology Building on its West Campus was renamed the Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke Building to recognize Reuben-Cooke’s role as one of the “First Five” Black undergraduates at Duke and her many contributions to the university. A fitting honor, this recognition recalls a different time at Duke, one when Reuben-Cooke’s election as the school’s first Black May Queen stirred controversy.

* * * * * * * * *

Although by 1967 a number of longstanding traditions at Duke had been set aside, the annual practice of crowning a “May Queen” endured. Selection of…

Theodore D. Segal

Writer/Historian, new book POINT OF RECKONING Out Now! Duke Press, lawyer, non-profit board member Center for Documentary Studies at Duke http://bit.ly/TedSegal

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