Languages in Durham: Telling Immigrant Stories

This month marks the launch of a new website showcasing the history, culture, and stories of Spanish and French speakers in Durham. There are plans to add pages exploring additional language groups; look for Arabic in Durham in May 2015. Languages in Durham is a community-based language initiative sponsored by Duke Service-Learning. Duke undergraduates research the history of the language community through interviews with local artists, clergy, business leaders, and community members in their native language. During the Summer and Fall semesters of 2014, eight courses contributed to the project. The results of their work are posted on the website in both the native language and English. The website is a public educational resource, hopefully to be used by Durham Public Schools, the Duke community, and Durham community members, among others. This initial phase of project (including filming and website development) was funded by the Center for Instructional Technology as a Jump Start Grant.

lindThe website began after a conversation between Channa Pickett of Duke’s Office of Durham & Regional Affairs, and Joan Clifford, the Director of Community-Based Language Initiative for Duke Service-Learning. They both recognized the growing need to create educational resources about the local immigrant communities, so that the residents of Durham would become more informed of their important contributions to the city’s history, economy, and culture. One can see the changes in the numbers of the immigrant community in Durham over the last twenty years through the census data; in 1990 1% of Durham identified as foreign-born and in 2010 14% identified as foreign-born.

The long-term goal of the project is to expand the website to represent the diversity of language communities in Durham. The students and local language communities are already benefiting from these interactions and the project will continue long-term as part of the Community-Based Language Initiative in Duke Service-Learning.

Please consider attending the launch event for the Languages in Durham website. It will be at the Durham History Hub on February 16 from 4:30 – 6:30. Please RSVP at