Story+ Project

Choose Your Words Carefully: Storytelling, Duke Magazine, and the University’s Black Community


Story+ 2021 | Choose Your Words Carefully: Storytelling, Duke Magazine & Duke’s Black Community

Duke Magazine has been around in several iterations since 1917 and has sought to engage alumni in the life of the university through storytelling. President Price’s recent goal of Duke becoming an anti-racist university raises new (and yet perhaps, old) questions: What story has the magazine been telling? Whose story has the magazine been sharing? How has that story changed over time? The aim of this project is to use textual analysis and oral history to examine the magazine through the prism of marketing, journalism, language, and race. We hope the data gleaned from this project will inform the magazine’s language and approach going forward in terms of story selection and scope.


  • Understand the power of language and storytelling and understand how it can be used in marketing and engagement
  • Have an interest in digital humanities methods and text analysis
  • Wants to obtain and practice reporting and interviewing skills
  • Has some skill in capturing audio
  • Are interested and invested in exploring full and complex Duke’s history
  • Has a passion for Black studies and an enthusiasm for equity issues


Project Sponsor(s): 

Adrienne Johnson Martin, Managing Editor Duke Magazine

Graduate Mentor(s): 

Lacie Chen, Graduate Liberal Studies


James Ndung'u, Arial Strode, Lynne Wang


In six weeks, the Choose Your Words Carefully team examined the storytelling in Duke Magazine and analyzed how it reflects the university’s perception of the Black community. In the research, this team focuses on three questions: what story has the magazine been telling, whose story has the magazine been telling, and how has the story changed over time. This team combines the history of Duke University fighting for racial justice narrated in Theodore D. Segal's book Point of Reckoning, and selects three time periods as the analysis objects: 1967-1980 featured with civil rights movement, desegregation, silent vigil and the takeover of Allen Building, 2000- 2010 with Duke lacrosse case, 2016-2020 with the presidency of Donald Trump, COVID-19 Pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement, and extracted some necessary nuance. The team concluded that Duke Magazine’s narrative voice is still largely dominated by white power and suggested that the magazine can improve this situation through oral history and Black-led publication.

Duke Magazine


  • Visual Media
  • Oral History
  • Civil Rights
  • Archives
  • History