Story+ Project

Preaching and Protest: Sermons from Duke Chapel during the Civil Rights Era


Every week, during the turbulent years of the African American Civil Rights Movement in the United States, a minister or ordained scholar preached from the pulpit of Duke University Chapel within Sunday morning services. Who were they? What did they say? What did they refrain from saying? How were their words influenced by national events?  How did they shape conversations on Duke’s campus and beyond?  

Story+ Preaching and Protest will investigate the relationship between the regular activity of Sunday morning preaching with the extraordinary public protest and social change between February 1, 1960 (the Greensboro, NC lunch counter sit in) and July 2, 1964 (the passage of the Civil Rights Act). Students will work with and research the sermonic contents of the Duke Chapel Recordings Digital Collection during this timeframe in order to reveal the (dis)connections of the contents with significant local and national activities, including campus and community protests, and local and national news reports. From this research, students will create a dynamic digital timeline and exhibition drawn from their study and these resources.  Members of the Duke Story+ student team will work with primary source material (sermons and worship service materials in the digital archive; local and national news archives; other archival materials), investigate secondary source material (particularly publications from Duke University Press that address the Civil Rights movement); annotate selected sermons to illuminate impacts and influences; and, where possible, conduct interviews with ministers and others to enrich “interdisciplinary story-making.”

List of skills required and/or preferred for graduate and undergraduate students:

Successful applicants will be: excited about working with primary sources, careful and rigorous, interested in developing replicable and scalable models for engaging digital archives; committed to collaborative work; and passionate about the role of religion, particularly preaching, in shaping public discourse and social change.

Special supplementary application materials: Applicants may include writing samples, videos, and other materials that suggest the creative capacity they bring to the project.

Project Sponsor(s): 

Rev. Luke A. Powery, Dean of Duke University Chapel and Associate Professor of Homiletics at Duke Divinity School

Duke University Chapel


  • Civil Rights
  • Archives
  • History