Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture

Programs & Services


Events at a Glance Flyer


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.

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. Throughout the month, discussions will be held addressing relevant issues of the day.

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

Freestyle Friday 

Check us out each Friday for festive Freestyle Fridays in the Mary Lou!  Starting September 8th, check us out the second Friday of every month for Freestyle Fridays in the Mary Lou!  Each week will concentrate on a different theme in Black culture through music, food, and fellowship.  1pm-3pm every second Friday!   

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.

MLK Day 

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.

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.


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

Join Jewish Life at Duke and the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture to explore key historical sites of the southern Civil Rights Movement, examine the history of the Movement from various perspectives and disciplines, and to discuss current issues surrounding the roots of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States in relation to Black / Jewish Identity Development.

Embark on an adventure!

Travel throughout the southern United States and explore the history of the Civil Rights Movement.

Starting in Downtown Durham, home of "Black Wall Street" and the Beth El Synagogue, discover Durham's connection to the National Civil Rights Movement.

Journey to Greensboro and discover the flame that flickered and drove 4 undergraduate students from NC A&T to spark a movement that shaped the country and the world through peaceful sit-ins.

Voyage to Atlanta, GA and fill yourself with the passion and the emotion that once filled the streets of Sweet Auburn Avenue. Uncover the incidents of the Hebrew temple bombings and explore why these locations were targets of attack and the resiliency of the movement to persevere through ongoing threats. Visit the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth. Find yourself in the city that pioneered such organizations as the NAACP, the ABJC, the SCLC, and the SNCC.  Learn what brought Blacks and Jews together in this historic time and the challenges the communities faced.

Roots to Rights, a Black-Jewish tour of the Civil Rights Movement, is sure to keep your curiosity peeked around each turn. This year's edition will focus on the South and investigate key locations in 6 states that wrote their way into the history books.

Sample itinerary attached.
Frequently Asked Questions

Sponsored by:
Jewish Life at Duke and the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture

Funding provided by:
The division of Student Affairs and the Office of Undergraduate Education.

For more information email

To apply for the 2018 Roots to Rights trip, please complete the attached application.

Respect your roots.

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

Read blog entries from the trips.


World AIDS Day 

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.