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What can the immediate past teach us about voting rights, self-determination, and democracy today? A new website created by the SNCC Legacy Project and Duke University explores how the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)—the only youth-led national civil rights group—organized a grassroots movement in the 1960s that empowered Black communities and transformed the nation. Told from the perspectives of the activists themselves, the SNCC Digital Gateway: Learn from the Past, Organize for the Future, Make Democracy Work (snccdigital.org) highlights SNCC’s thinking and work building democracy from the ground up, making those experiences and strategies accessible to activists, educators, and engaged citizens today. 

The website is a product of a groundbreaking partnership among veteran civil rights activists of the SNCC Legacy Project, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, Duke University Libraries, and civil rights scholars. 

The CDS Documentary Essay Prize honors the best in documentary photography and writing in alternating years: one year, photos; one year, writing. The focus is on current or recently completed work from a long-term project. The 2017 prize competition was awarded in writing. The winning essay, “The Wrong Place,” was submitted by Carrie Laben, a freelance writer based in Astoria, New York. In her essay, Laben uses her knowledge of birds and personal experiences as a birdwatcher to “illustrate a land-use ethic for the way we live now.”

Rock pigeons (Columba livia), Astoria, Queens, spring 2015

The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) is the main beneficiary of a $1 million gift to Duke University from CDS cofounder and renowned historian William H. Chafe and longtime educator and social activist Lorna Chafe. CDS receives $700,000 for oral history work; $300,00 will support human rights projects at Duke.

Lorna and Bill Chafe at Acadia National Park in Maine, July 2014. Photograph by Chris Chafe.

The Julia Harper Day Award was created by the Center for Documentary Studies in 1992 in memory of the young woman who was the CDS’s first staff member, a writer and photographer of real accomplishment. This $500 award goes to a graduating Duke University senior who has demonstrated excellence in documentary studies and contributed significantly to the CDS programs. This year’s Julia Harper Day Award goes to Sharpsburg, Georgia, native Christopher White, a visual and media studies major graduating with a certificate documentary studies as well as a certificate in the Arts of the Moving Image.