Race and Sports: C.B. Claiborne and Duke Men's Black Basketball History (2023-2024)


Duke University men’s basketball is one of the most storied programs in basketball history; however, the program has a complicated history and relationship with Black America. Before 1965, the Duke men’s basketball team was racially segregated. Fast forward to 2022, and five Black men from Duke’s team were drafted to the NBA, setting the program record for players selected in a single draft. 

But how did we get from segregation to the success signified by the 2022 draft? 

One way to explore this history is through the story of Claudius B. (“C.B.”) Claiborne, Duke’s first Black student-athlete. By focusing on C.B.’s story, which includes active participation in the struggle for Black liberation on campus and the Allen Building Takeover, we can examine both the individual experience of the first Black student-athlete on campus as well as the institutional and national histories of Black activism and sports. 

Project Description

This project team will produce a feature-length documentary on Duke men’s basketball history through the lens and life of its first Black player, C.B. Claiborne. Team members will examine Claiborne’s history, story and legacy to center the role of sports, specifically the Duke men’s basketball program, and race in the life of the university. 

Drawing on work begun by a 2022 Story+ team, team members will create a documentary preproduction plan; conduct original archival research; identify key interviewees and conduct film interviews; compile and edit video footage and photography into a documentary film; draft and edit a discussion/resource guide to accompany the film; and participate in the film’s marketing and distribution to festivals and streaming services.

Anticipated Outputs

Documentary film; resource/discussion guide

Student Opportunities

Ideally, this team will include 1 graduate/professional student and 5 undergraduates with skills and experience in visual media production, documentary film, African American history and public scholarship.

Students on the team will gain experience bringing visibility to an individual that has transformed their university and the basketball world. They will contribute to original documentary research and production, including conducting archival research, performing interviews, completing textual analysis and making sense of the visual media and data to create a critical and compelling story. 

Students will also have the chance to work closely with partnering non-profit organizations focused on documentary film and African American history and experiences.

In Fall 2023, the team will meet on Wednesdays from 1:25-2:40 p.m.


Fall 2023 – Summer 2024

  • Fall 2023: Identify key individuals to interview in Durham and Danville, VA (Claiborne’s hometown); conduct original archival research at Duke, NCCU and additional sites; film interviews with current basketball coaches and players; partner with non-profit in Danville to explore Claiborne’s family history
  • Spring 2024: Begin filming interviews and additional footage; define documentary’s storyline; begin editing; start compiling resource/discussion guide; develop distribution plan
  • Summer 2024 (optional): Capture remaining footage; finalize post-production of documentary; begin distribution


Academic credit available for fall and spring semesters; summer funding available

This Team in the News

Meet the 2024 Commencement Ceremony Honorary Degree Recipients

New Project Teams Will Delve Into Duke’s History to Mark the Centennial


Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics

Claiborne jumps to block an opponent's shot in a basketball game.

Team Leaders

  • Martin Smith, Arts & Sciences
  • Javier Wallace, Arts & Sciences-African and African American Studies

/graduate Team Members

  • Tianzuo Wang, Master of Quantitative Mgmt
  • Jie Yeh, Liberal Studies-AM

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Isaiah Fisher-Smith, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Brandon Lee, Public Policy Studies (AB)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • Art is Cool
  • Helen Xiao