History Hub presents Bill Chafe on "Lifting the Chains"

Bill Chafe Holding up book in front of audience

On October 26, faculty and students gathered in the Thomas Room in Lilly Library for a lecture by Bill Chafe, Alice Mary Baldwin Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History. Professor Chafe reflected on his long career at Duke University (he has been a faculty member since 1971), and on his scholarship and activism in the Civil Rights Movement over a period of more than forty years. During that time, Professor Chafe and his colleagues trained almost thirty graduate students, who have gone on to become among the most influential scholars in Civil Rights and African American history, winning more than a dozen book prizes. Professor Chafe also co-founded the Duke Center for Documentary Studies, and launched the Behind the Veil oral history project, a landmark oral history project (partly digitized and fully available to Duke students) that recorded the experiences of more than 1,200 civil rights activists and others to create a unique archive of African American life during the age of legal segregation in the American South. Despite the extraordinary successes of the Civil Rights movement, Professor Chafe took as his theme the persistent issues of poverty and economic inequality that were central to the campaigns of Dr. Martin Luther King and other activists. Professor Chafe summarized the argument of his recently published book, Lifting the Chains: The Black Freedom Struggle in America Since Reconstruction (Oxford University Press), highlighting the failure to make gains in economic equality commensurate with those made in political and legal equality. Following the lecture, a lively informal discussion accompanied a pizza dinner.