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The History of Black Student-Athletes and Activism at Duke


Feb 28 2022


4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


Virtual Only

The History of Black Student-Athletes and Activism at Duke

A conversation with Claudius "C.B." Claiborne and Michelle Staggers


Join us on Zoom with Dr. Claudius "C.B." Claiborne, Duke's first Black student-athlete, and former Duke women's lacrosse player Michelle Staggers. In addition to success in sports and in the classroom, Claiborne participated in the 1969 Allen Building sit-in during his Senior year, and Staggers co-founded Duke United Black Athletes in 2018 as a college Junior. In this conversation, they will discuss the similarities and differences across their experiences as barrier-breaking athletes and activists at Duke and beyond. The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Javier Wallace, post-doctoral fellow in African & African American Studies at Duke.

This is a free online event, open to the public. Advance registration is required.

This event is sponsored by Trinity College of Arts & Sciences as part of "Black in Blue: The Duke Sports & Race Project." Additional sponsors for this conversation include the Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Department of African & African American Studies, the Department of Cultural Anthropology, the Department of Economics, the Program in Education and the Program in Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies at Duke.


Duke Campus Community Members: Please note that on Wednesday, March 2 at 4:00 PM ET, there will be an opportunity to view a recording of this program at the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture. This gathering will include an opportunity for discussion among students, faculty, and staff. More information can be found here.

Update April 1, 2022: Read an excerpt from the transcript of the conversation and then watch the full video.

Claudius “C.B.” Claiborne on becoming an activist while at Duke in the late 1960s:

“I never really made a decision to be an activist. There was no difference between being an athlete and being a student. When the Black Students Association decided to protest or to ask for African American Studies classes on campus, of course, I was going to be a part of that. Being an athlete, it didn't confer on me any different status than everyone else.

"So, we'd come to a place that, the way to describe Duke in the 60s, it was inherently non-inclusive. It was away from Durham, it was out here. We come to this campus and you look around and there's seven Black folks on the campus. We started saying, well, why aren't there Black faculty? Why can't we get a haircut in the barbershop on campus? You know? And we started asking all these questions and that led to forming the Black Students Association and making some demands for those questions. And of course, I was a part of that. It's not that we wanted to burn down the university or do anything radical, we just wanted our environment to become more proactively inclusive.”

Michelle Staggers on activism pushing for inclusivity:

“I think just the notion of asking for inclusivity kind of sounds like you're knocking on the door, ‘Will you please let us in?’ And that's absolutely not the case, especially in the context of activism. It's just about fighting for something that you know is yours, but maybe isn't widely acknowledged. But you're going to do what it takes until it is acknowledged. In that way, I don't think there's anything more dignifying than being able to keep your head high and represent yourself and push your way through the door. Not really asking sometimes.”

Watch the full video:


And you can also read a description of the event written by Kathryn Kennedy of Trinity Communications at Duke.


C. B. Claiborne

Dr. Claudius "C.B." Claiborne is Professor of Business and Marketing in the Jesse H. Jones School of Business at Texas Southern University. He has a longstanding relationship with leadership development programs beginning with his selection as a Presidential Scholar from Virginia. Dr. Claiborne was the first African American basketball player…...

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Michelle Staggers

Michelle Staggers is a native of Stafford, Virginia who grew up playing lacrosse since the age of seven. Though she once placed her identity in being an African American lacrosse player and coach, Michelle is passionate about young athletes developing an identity outside of sports. She earned a degree in…...

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Javier Wallace

Duke University

Javier is the “Master Storyteller.” He is the Race and Sport Postdoctoral Associate in the Department of African & African American Studies at Duke University. He completed his Ph.D. at The University of Texas at Austin. Javier’s research revolves around race, class, gender, labor migration, nationality, and transnationalism of athletes…...

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