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Latinos at Duke

This exhibit documents and celebrates the history of Latinx students at Duke University by examining their contributions, the various ways they have been included or excluded from campus life over time, and how the current generation is imagining a different kind of Latinx future at Duke. It is an exhibit by students and for students. Students collected the materials from the University Archives. And students conducted the oral histories with the Duke community. As such, the majority of the material focuses on the student experience.

The exhibit begins with the 1900s-1970s, when most Latinxs at Duke were international students and nonblack, as a result of Jim Crow segregation that lasted until the early 1960s. Race was complicated for nonblack Latinx students who attended Duke during this period. Many were subjected to jokes about their accents and their race, or otherwise socially excluded. This led some Latinx students to form groups with other international students where they could feel less “foreign.”

In the wake of the Civil Rights era, the Latinx population at Duke began to grow and diversify. Students formed groups to build communities of support, foster a sense of belonging, and work together to combat racism on Duke’s campus. Our exhibit ends in the current moment. It documents recent achievements by Latinx students at Duke and looks forward to our future as a campus community.

We have tried to tell as many stories as possible in this exhibition. But there will always be stories that are missing. We hope this is the beginning, rather than the culmination, of a campus-wide dialogue on the complex history and contemporary status of Latinx students at Duke. Together we can build a better and more equitable university for all.

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