Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture

Programs & Services

Abele Awards

In early April, the MLWC, Black Student Alliance (BSA) and Black Graduate and Professional Student Association (BGPSA) co-sponsor the annual Julian Abele Awards, the premier Black community awards dinner.  This annual event honors the significant achievements of Black community members and their supporters. They are named in honor of Julian Abele, an African-American who designed the architecture for Duke's West Campus.

In the spring of 1990, the BGPSA began hosting the Julian Abele Awards and Recognition Banquet. At the first banquet, a commissioned portrait of Julian Abele was unvelied and now hangs in the foyer of the Allen Building, the first African American portratit displayed on Duke's campus.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.

Art & Soul

This event showcases a collection of music, spoken word, and visual art. A neo-soul infused house band, student and local community poets, and student artists are invited to express their art form in a creative and respectful environment.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.

Black History Month

The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture centralizes the efforts of student Black affinity organization during the month of February for celebrating the history and culture of Black people in America. The key program the Center hosts is Documentary & Dialogue. Throughout the month, discussions will be held addressing relevant issues of the day.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.


The bLOUprint is the complete slate of programs of the Mary Lou Williams Center initiated and facilitated by students that represent targeted outreach to students of African descent.

This innovative initiative harnesses the creativity and energy of the past year and provides a framework to connect four separate efforts to engage Black students in the life of the University. In the interest of providing a firm foundation upon which to build an academic and professional career, the bLOUprint, which is student initiated and facilitated, provides intentional programming at each stage of the college career and in preparation for the lives' students will lead after Duke.

It provides identity, leadership, and professional development opportunities and support for new and returning students. Students will be invited to participate in the bLOUprint - either in a singular component or multiple facets.

Documentary & Dialogue

In conjunction with area cultural centers, the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture hosts a series of documentary screenings and an accompanying dialogue exploring the intricacies and issues presented in each film.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.

Final Honors

Each year during Commencement weekend, the Mary Lou Williams Center supports Final Honors, a Black student graduation ceremony and reception, for all affiliated seniors and their families.

A student committee enjoys the opportunity to work on this program annually, securing a keynote speaker, student artists to display varied talents and creating a memory book of pictures from throughout the year with words of encouragement from the graduating seniors' families. 

During the Saturday program, students participate by walking across the stage at Page Auditorium, receiving a special kente cloth stole, and the memory book.  Guests of families, campus, and community members attend to extend best wishes and bid farewell.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.

Freestyle Friday

Check us out each Friday for festive Freestyle Fridays in the Mary Lou!  Each week will concentrate on a different theme in Black culture through music, food, and fellowship.  1pm-4pm every Friday!

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.

Illuminating Intersections

Join the CSGD and MLWC in exploring Black and LGBTQ identities and relationships through this collaborative program.  Enjoy thought-provoking performance vignettes by Duke's Me Too Monologues, followed by engaging and provocative conversations surrounding the Black LGBTQ community.  Food will be provided.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.


One of the major tenets of our annual calendar includes programming and events focused on jazz.  The Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture offers two programs, Jazz Matters and Jazz @, that highlight the genre's issues and feature opportunities to listen to live jazz music.


This year the Mary Lou Williams Center is celebrating Kwanzaa with a focus on the principle of Nia (Purpose). The celebration will feature African drumming, ritual, food, and music in an effort to connect students, faculty, and community members. 

The name Kwanzaa is derived from the phrase "matunda ya kwanza" which means "first fruits" in Swahili, a Pan-African language which is the most widely spoken African language. It originates from the first harvest celebrations of Africa. celebrated December 26 to January 1.

Mary Lou Day

Every Spring late in the Semester, the Center celebrates its namesake - Mary Lou Williams.

Featuring a delectable theme, the Center honors Ms. Williams with an assortment of delightful treats and jazz music. It is always a pleasure to take time out to honor those who have gone before us, and what better time to do it and what better person to honor than the woman who dedicated her talents and skills to Duke University unto her passing.

Mary Lou Day is a day of cheer and jeer. It is the day that we celebrate the life and birth of Ms. Williams and the work that she has contributed to the University.

Join us as we commemorate our history and future.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.


Each year, the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture joins in with the greater Duke community to celebrate the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Holiday weekend consists of a keynote speaker during the special ceremony held at the Chapel.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.


Jump off the beaten path to explore Durham and the surrounding area! offCenter is your program through which you can attend theatrical plays, visual exhibits, dance and more.

Roots to Rights

Roots to Rights in Action!
(Click on the photo to enlarge)

Read blog entries from the trips.

World AIDS Week

The first national Day Without Art (DWA) was held on December 1, 1989, in conjunction with the World Health Organization's AIDS Awareness Day, as a nationwide day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis. More than 800 U.S. art and AIDS groups participated in the first Day Without Art, closing museum doors, and sending staff to volunteer at AIDS services, or sponsoring special exhibitions of work about AIDS.

Contact the Mary Lou Center for more information.