Durham, NC

About the Site

Durham, North Carolina, a city of close to 200,000, located near the fall line in the Piedmont of the state, is home to the Research Triangle Park, which drove employment and in-migration (of all ethnicities) in the 1990s. As a result, numerous professional and service-sector opportunities arose, and immigrants primarily from Mexico, but also from El Salvador and Honduras, were among those to take advantage; many of their young children are now native-born American citizens. Of metro counties in North Carolina, Durham County trailed only Forsyth County in the percentage of 1990s population growth that was comprised by Hispanics. The city of Durham represents a fertile field for the investigation of interaction between Hispanics and speakers of other varieties and of the possible emergence of a new regional variety of Chicano English. Within the city’s Public School System, more than 5,000 students are Hispanic—a proportion approaching one out of every five students.

The NCLLP has field sites at four schools in Durham: Chewning Middle School, E.K. Powe Elementary, Rogers-Herr Middle School, and Eastway Elementary. The student population in each school reflects the demographics of the larger Durham Community; the ethnic makeup of each school varies from up to 74% African American and 7% Hispanic at Rogers-Herr middle school to 55% African American and 44% Hispanic at Eastway Elementary school.

Research Questions

Working in conjunction with the Durham Public Schools ESL Division, we are interviewing approximately sixty children between the ages of 8 and 15. Our research will help investigate the ways in which these students from a new but rapidly burgeoning Latino population negotiate the demands of English proficiency and social interaction with White and African American classmates; our data will also give us information to examine the students’ literacy skills and the structural interaction of their local varieties of English and Spanish.