New Duke Center to Address Racial Healing and Transformation

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke University is among 10 institutions nationwide selected as sites for new campus centers devoted to racial healing and transformation, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) announced Wednesday.

The 10 Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Campus Center sites were chosen from among 125 applications through a competitive process. The development of TRHT Campus Centers is a multi-year initiative.

“The goal of our Duke TRHT Campus Center is to strengthen Duke University’s position as a catalyst of change in partnership with the City of Durham to help eliminate deeply rooted beliefs and societal structures that perpetuate racism,” said Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth.

"The selection of Duke as one of these centers could not be more timely. Duke, our country, and our world have much work to do and the national TRHT initiative will play a significant role in facilitating social change.”

Charmaine Royal, associate professor of African & African American Studies, Biology, and Community & Family Medicine, leads the new Duke center. Royal also directs the Duke Center on Genomics, Race, Identity, Difference, which explores questions at the intersection of race and genetics.

“Our work will be grounded in knowledge about human variation,” Royal said. “We will collect empirical evidence at Duke and in Durham to assess this knowledge and the related beliefs and attitudes, and to inform our efforts at reframing narratives and fostering racial healing and transformation in the Duke-Durham community.”

Ed Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, said, “An innovative aspect of the Duke TRHT Center is its interdisciplinary guiding framework that encompasses biological and social sciences and well as the arts and humanities.”

The Duke TRHT Center will involve faculty, staff, students and senior leadership as well as a broad range of community partners. The activities of the center will be varied, including research as well as moderated conversations with members of the Duke-Durham community.

“There is already a lot happening at Duke and in Durham relevant to the TRHT initiative, and as a university-wide endeavor, the Duke center will build on and expand these efforts,” Royal said.

The initial 10 TRHT sites represent the first step in a long-term effort to educate, prepare and inspire the next generation of leaders to advance justice and build equitable communities.

"In the aftermath of the horrific, heartbreaking events in Charlottesville, we must not be silent,” said AAC&U President Lynn Pasquerella. “Instead, we must harness our collective intellectual, social and financial resources to transform words into action." 

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Initiated in 2016 by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, TRHT is a comprehensive plan that seeks to address the historic and contemporary effects of racism. TRHT seeks to unearth and jettison the deeply held, often unconscious, beliefs created by racism, including the perception of inferiority or superiority based on race, physical characteristics or place of origin.

The initiative is supported by grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Newman’s Own Foundation.