Noose Found Hanging from Tree on Duke University Campus

Illustration for article titled Noose Found Hanging from Tree on Duke University Campus

A noose made with yellow rope was found hanging from a tree on the Duke University campus in Durham, North Carolina around 3 a.m. today. In an email to students, Larry Moneta, the school’s Vice President for Student Affairs, wrote, “I can’t begin to describe the disgust and anger I felt, and still feel.”


According to WRAL, university officials are investigating after the noose was found hanging from a tree in the school’s Bryan Center plaza. It’s been removed, but Moneta notes, “the photos are everywhere, and its hateful message will sadly pervade and persist for a long time.”

On the messaging app Yik Yak, Duke students are sharing their own anger and disgust, as well as some frankly odd conspiracy theories. Some anonymous students are speculating that the noose was placed there for “mental health awareness,” while others are accusing the Black Student Alliance of placing it there. (There’s no evidence whatsoever to link the BSA to the noose.)

One Yik Yak post, titled, “Context,” says this:

In 1997, a black doll was found hanging by a noose on campus, with the message, “Duke hasn’t changed.” Two black students later confessed, saying they wanted to make a political statement.

That text is pulled from a 2004 L.A. Times article on “hate crime hoaxes.” Another student wrote, “PoC have done this in the past at Duke as part of a political statement; don’t rush to conclusions about our campus.”

There’s also a whole lot of gallows humor (“The noose is an easy knot to tie, once you get the hang of it”), and more than a few posts that make light of the whole incident (“So many drama queens at duke.”) One student even speculates that it was put there for “learning to tie a knot.”


Regardless of who hung that noose, these responses make it pretty clear that Duke’s got their work cut out for them.

Photo via Twitter/Justin Elliott

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As an antidote to the disgusting act above, may I present something that may give you faith in future generations:

Each year, as I introduce the Civil Rights movement, I lead a "first impressions" activity with my sixth graders. In this activity, we look at photographs of different types of people and try to unpack the unconscious assumptions we all make based on race, sex, gender, age, and the like. This year, I've added teenage transgender activist Jazz Jennings to my slideshow, which led to the following conversation yesterday with the group of seventh graders who came into my room at the end of the day:

Seventh Grade Boy #1 (looking at the screen), to Seventh Grade Boy #2: She's hot. Who is she?
Me: That's Jazz Jennings. She is a teenage transgender activist.
Seventh Grade Boy #2: What do you mean?
Me: She was born with the anatomy of a boy, but she identifies as, and is transitioning into, a girl.
Boy #2: So do we say "he" or "she"?
Me: She is a girl. You would call her "she."
Boy #1: <silence>
Boy #2: <silence>
Boy #2: Huh.
Boy #1: I don't care. She's still hot.

While we will continue to discuss the problematic ideal standards of female beauty, I'm placing this firmly in the "win" column for today.