Story+ 2022 | From Stephen to C.B.: Tobacco, Race & Duke Men's Basketball

Story+ 2022 | From Stephen to C.B.: Tobacco, Race & Duke Men's Basketball

This project sought to examine and re-narrate the historical relationship of tobacco, race, and the Duke University Men’s Basketball program. This project began by looking specifically at the subjectivities of Stephen Slade, the enslaved Black man who discovered the “Brightleaf” curing method of tobacco, and Claudius Claiborne, Duke University’s first Black Men’s Basketball player. Looking through the throughline of tobacco, the team produced a website detailing their connections. Among the most significant relationships unearthed through interviews with Dr. Claiborne, and site visits to the Duke Homestead were the communities formed during the segregation era. The team learned about their integral connections to the growth of “Black basketball” and the intentional effort Black coaches and players used to eradicate Jim Crow policies from their lives. This team also worked to expose the silences in the narratives and the absence of public recognition of these important figures. What was noticed is the lack of any monument or general marker of C.B. Claiborne in Cameroon Indoor Stadium, the Duke Basketball Museum, or any other public campus area. Through the website, Dr. Claiborne’s life was explored with write-ups and the use of archival materials to highlight his activism on campus, and in larger communities, including his missing practice and games to participate in the Allen Building Takeover. We are hopeful this project will lead Duke University to recognize and memorialize Dr. Claiborne, which will serve current and future Duke students and supporters.

Visit the website here:

Project Sponsor(s): Javier Wallace, PhD, Race and Sport Postdoctoral Associate, Duke African & African American Studies

Graduate Mentor(s): Damilare Bello, PhD Candidate, Duke English

Undergraduates: Sophia Hanani and Hanrui Huang