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Graduate School’s Documentary Becomes Part of Rubenstein Library Collection

In 1967, Ida Stephens Owens made history by becoming the first African American woman to receive a doctorate from Duke. Now, The Graduate School’s commemoration of her accomplishment will become part of the history preserved at Duke University Libraries.

As part of the Commemorating 50 Years of Black Students at Duke University celebration in 2013, The Graduate School collaborated with filmmaker Ivan Weiss to produce a documentary about Owens. The school has deposited the material from the project and from the film’s premiere screening in the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library (see catalog entry).

Jacqueline Looney, who spearheaded the project, says the research for the documentary helped correct part of the historical record. While digging through the archives, she learned that Owens shared the distinction of being the first black student to earn a Duke Ph.D. with James Roland Law.

“That is part of the beauty of working on a project like this in a research environment,” says Looney, senior associate dean for graduate programs at The Graduate School and associate vice provost for academic diversity. “Now the fruits of our research are available to everyone.”

The collection includes

  • digital files of the documentary;
  • background information on Owens;
  • video footage, audio files, transcripts, and related photos from interviews for the documentary;
  • electronic files of correspondence and miscellaneous Owens-related material;
  • photos, video, audio, and printed material from the documentary premiere;
  • material from the Edward Alexander Bouchet Black Tie Dinner, where Owens was the keynote speaker; and
  • the thesis project on Owens created by Weiss, who was a master’s student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill during the production of the documentary.

Watch the Ida Owens Documentary