Need a speaker?

Call to schedule: 1-919-845-9244.

Non-profit groups may submit requests to the North Carolina Humanities Council’s Road Scholars program by clicking here.

“I am certain that I don't have to tell you what a success your program was on Sunday. I have looked over the surveys and, without exception, all the remarks were glowing.  Several people wrote that it was the best program they had ever seen. Thank you for putting so much time and effort into your presentation.  It showed! We're all looking forward to having you back.”

Lois Holt

Weymouth Center for Arts and Humanities

Southern Pines, NC

2013 Events

January 8, 2013—St. Phillip Lutheran Church North Raleigh, “War Zone—WWII Off the NC Coast.”

Feb. 12, 2013— Farmville Public Library, “Last Days of Black Beard.”

Feb. 16, 2013——Granville County Museum, “Last Days of Black Beard.”

March 5, 2013—Pickwick Book Club Greenville, “Adventures of a History Detective.”

March 14, 2013—Harper Library Southport/Oak Island, “War Zone—WWII Off the NC Coast.”

April 13, 2013—Siege of Washington Sesquicentennial, “The Lost Light-A Civil War Mystery;” “Where Parting Is No More- One Soldier’s Story in the Siege of Washington.”

April 20, 2013—North Carolina State Capitol, “The Lost Light-A Civil War Mystery.”

April 21, 2013—Brown Library, Washington, NC, “War Zone—WWII Off the NC Coast.”

May 3, 2013—Downtown Books Manteo, War Zone signing.

May 4, 2013—Duck’s Cottage Duck, NC, War Zone signing.

May 10, 2013—Bridger Family Association Meeting, Norfolk.

May 20, 2013—Farmville Public Library,  “War Zone—WWII Off the NC Coast.”

June 10, 2013—Rocky Mount Rotary Club

June 11, 2013—Kannapolis Rotary Club

June 11, 2013—Book signing at Literary Book Post, Salisbury 2:30-5 p.m.

June 11, 2013—Afton Sunset Rotary, Concord.

June 12, 2013—Concord Rotary Club.

June 17, 2013—Shaftsbury Society Luncheon at John Locke Foundation offices, Raleigh, 12 p.m. (info here)

June 19, 2013—RTP180º-Depths of NC, Davis Dr. RTP HQ , 6 p.m. Black Beard.

August 8-9, 2013—NC Maritime Museum: Thursday, Blackbeard Roundtable, Beaufort Pirate Invasion

September 17-21, 2013—On the Same Page Literary Festival, West Jefferson, NC

Oct. 17, 2013—Colonial Dames, Rocky Mount.

Oct. 24, 2013—Friends of Wilson County Library.

Program Descriptions

From a Fire on the Beach to a Diamond in the Sky--The Evolution of Lighthouses and Light-keeping in North Carolina.

With historic photographs, drawings and maps, maritime historian Kevin Duffus presents a wide-ranging discussion of North Carolina's rich heritage of guiding mariners, a tradition which surprisingly began nearly five centuries ago.
Learn of the earliest recorded effort to guide a ship ashore and the date of the earliest observed shipwreck on the Carolina coast. Discover primitive methods used during colonial times to establish beacons and channel markers. Kevin Duffus demonstrates how the first NC lighthouses, including the original Bald Head lighthouse, utilized technology that wasted 80% of light emitted, and explains why the improved Fresnel lens may be misnamed. See how the architecture of lighthouses and keeper's dwellings evolved over two centuries—from elegant to ugly, and from utilitarian to ornate. You’ll be amazed to learn of the times when the state’s lighthouses and beacons were blown-up, burned, and battered, and lightships were sunk by wars and storms. Learn the functions of screw-pile lights, range lights, and day-marks. Duffus also describes shocking little-known stories of keepers, some who were hired for their political payoffs, the keeper accused of purposely wrecking ships, and others who helped to steal their own lenses. Perhaps most amazing of all is the story of the keeper's house built from a shipwreck. If, as the U.S. Commissioner of Lighthouses once said: "The building and keeping of the lights is a picturesque and humanitarian work of a nation,” then it can also be stated that story of lighthouses in North Carolina is one most fascinating and colorful chapters of the state’s history.

Length: 50 minutes

Requirements: LCD projector and screen preferred


War Zone—World War Two Off North Carolina’s Outer Banks

In 1942, the United States
suffered one of its worst defeats of WW II, not in Europe or the Pacific, but along the nation’s eastern seaboard. Three hundred ninety-seven ships were sunk or damaged and 5,000 people were killed. For six months, 65 U-boats hunted merchant vessels practically unopposed within view of coastal communities. The greatest concentration of these attacks occurred off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. For the production of his 3-hour TV documentary, filmmaker Kevin Duffus has compiled a stunning collection of eyewitness stories of merchant sailors, Coast Guard recruits and coastal residents who survived the events that made the first six months of 1942 one of the most heart-rending periods of North Carolina’s history. Duffus describes how life was altered when war was waged on Outer Bankers’ doorsteps and their beaches were covered with oil, debris and bodies. He discusses the facts behind decades-old urban legends of German spies, sympathizers and saboteurs. Duffus shares a first-hand account of the almost calamitous first engagement between a U-boat and an U.S. Navy destroyer near Nags Head, and the story of the sinking of the U-701, soon to become North Carolina’s first diving preserve. Most remarkable is the story of faith, courage and determination when a young mother delivered her newborn son in a wave-tossed lifeboat off Cape Hatteras, marking a turning point in the war of Torpedo Junction. War Zone is a story of infamy, irony and innocence lost.

Length: 50 minutes

Requirements: LCD projector and screen preferred


How Shipwrecks Shaped the Destiny of the Outer Banks

For more than four and a
half centuries, shipwrecks shaped the destiny of North Carolina's Outer Banks, creating one of the most intriguing histories and cultures in America. Kevin Duffus, author of the new book, “Shipwrecks of the Outer Banks--An Illustrated Guide,” presents a wide-ranging discussion of shipwrecks and their legacy--lifesaving, salvage, rumors of wreckers, and the hundreds of forgotten shipwreck victims buried among the dunes. Duffus explains the various causes of shipwrecks and why there is a Graveyard of the Atlantic in the first place, what it was like for passengers and crew when ships crashed into the breakers along the banks, and the true stories of some of the most incredible rescues. Duffus shares the memories of the last living lighthouse keeper on the Outer Banks, the descendants of lifesavers, residents who played on shipwrecks as children, and one well known historian who used to dance on the deck of a wrecked vessel. Precise locations of famous and deadly wrecks, as well as places to still see remains of shipwrecks today are also featured in the presentation.

Length: 50 minutes

Requirements: LCD projector and screen preferred


Solving The Mystery Of The Missing Cape Hatteras Fresnel Lens

In 2002, filmmaker and author,
Kevin Duffus, solved the long-standing mystery of the missing, first-order Fresnel lens from the 1803 Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, lost for 140 years. Confederate officials secretly removed and hid the 6,000-pound, 12-foot tall, bronze and crystal optic from the historic Hatteras tower in 1861 to prevent it from aiding the enemy. In its wake, the lens left a trail of destruction, defiance and recrimination—careers were lost, towns were threatened, and the steamboat that transported the apparatus was captured and sunk. The French-manufactured lens was one of the first commissioned for an U.S. lighthouse. “A good storehouse,” in Granville County, NC, was the last known location of the lens and according to Lighthouse Digest, its fate remained “one of the great-unsolved mysteries of American lighthouse history.” Duffus discovered more than the storied Hatteras lens—he compiled a staggering volume of research that for the first time accurately portrays the fate of the South’s lighthouses during the Civil War. He tells an inspiring tale of perseverance, passion, imagination and luck and weaves a fascinating story that reaches back into his own family history when his great-great grandfather participated in the defense of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse against Confederate saboteurs. Duffus illustrates his story with copies of documents and research methods that helped to solve the mystery.

Length: 50 minutes

Requirements: LCD projector and screen preferred


The Last Days of Black Beard the Pirate

    What happened during Black Beard’s
last days that precipitated his demise? Who, truly, was Edward Teach, and from whence did he come? What was his true name? And where may he have hidden his treasure? 

    With his newest lecture, author Kevin Duffus invites audiences to enter the dimly-lit passageway of time and learn surprising contradictions to previously-published historical accounts of the last days of Black Beard the pirate. He discloses new information about how Black Beard was cornered and attacked at Ocracoke in 1718, why he tried to escape rather than to fight back, and how his life might have been spared had he lived for three more weeks.  He reveals the true meaning of a mysterious letter found in Black Beard’s possessions, and explores the possibilities of government conspiracies and coverups. New research finds that many of the 25 pirates who remained with Black Beard after the wreck of the Queen Anne’s Revenge were sons of North Carolina families. And for the first time, Duffus proves that most of Black Beard’s captured crew members were not hanged in Virginia, and that one of them—10 years after purportedly being executed—became a respected and wealthy landowner and the grandfather of heroes of the American Revolution and a Tennessee governor.

     For the first time, Duffus exposes the truth behind many of the enduring Blackbeard myths—his Bristol, England, birthplace; his 14 wives, including Mary Ormond; the burning of fuses in his hair to frighten his victims; and the countless tall tales of buried treasure, secret tunnels, and the shocking origins of the legend of his silver-plated skull used as a drinking cup by a secret society.

     In addition to dozens of new discoveries one revelation promises to stand-out as the most amazing. With the help of groundbreaking research by three courageous genealogists, Kevin Duffus shares long-forgotten clues to the potential identity of Black Beard, beginning with a long-held myth about his sister, Susannah—and the conclusions are staggering and certain to be controversial.

Length: 50 minutes

Requirements: LCD projector and screen preferred


Past Events

Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon, Charleston

Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum

Ocracoke Preservation Society

Wake County Historical Society

American Lighthouse Foundation, Rhode Island, Keynote Address

Mariners Museum

Rotary Greenville

Kiwanis North Raleigh

Bennett Place State Historic Site

NC Maritime Museum

Society of NC Archivists

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Bicentennial Keynote

Charlotte Civil War Roundtable

Wake Co. Library-Olivia Raney

Wakefield Kiwanis

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station Historic Site

Springmoor Mens Club

Henderson Library

Military Order of Stars & Bars Raleigh Chapter

Zebulon SCV

Burlington Century Book club

Carolina Meadows

Clayton CWRT

Museum of the Albemarle

Fort Fisher Historic Site

NC Museum of History

Spring Hope SCV

MOS&B Carolina CC

Friends of NC Archives

Kinston Rotary

UDC Raleigh

East Chapel Hill Rotary

Martha’s Chapel Cedar Fork Rifle Camp

Gastonia Rotary

Kill Devil Hills Rotary

Chapel Hill SCV

Smithfield SCV

Wake Forest Kiwanis

Crabtree Rotary

2004 Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival, Alpena, Michigan

2004 NC Maritime Conference Keynote Address

Burke Co. Library

7th National Maritime Heritage Conference

Friends of Fort Macon

NC Aquarium Fort Fisher

Trane Corp. Meeting, Homestead VA

Topsail Island Historical Association

Roanoke Island Festival Park

Tryon Palace

Polk Camp SCV Garner

Sanford SCV

Wayne Co. Public Library

May Memorial Lib. Burlington

Oxford SCV

Southport Power Squadron

Wilson SCV

Ashe County Library

Durham SCV

Hutcherson Associates Greenville

NC Hospital Volunteers Greensboro

Burke Co. Library

UDC Durham Keynote Address

Culbreth Middle School

Chapel Hill Public Library

Currituck Library Corolla

Currituck Library Barco

English Speaking Union Greensboro

Bath State Historic Site

Roxboro Research Club

Brassfield School

Rocky Mount Power Squadron

Museum of Coastal Carolina

Davie County Community College

Person County Library

Cape Fear Civil War Roundtable

Chautauqua—Andrews Valley Experience

Onslow County Library

First Presbyterian Church Greensboro

Cypress Landing Women's Club

Concord Rotary

NC Estuarium

McIntrye's Fine Books

Southern Pines Library

Capital City Rotary

Transylvania County Library

Brunswick County Libraries

Cary Women's Club

Greenville Rotary

Greensboro Kiwanis Club

NC Transportation Museum

Carteret County Library

Partnership for the Sounds, Windsor

Dare County Libraries

NC Museum of History

Hampton History Museum, Blackbeard Pirate Festival

Triad Stage, Bloody Blackbeard Production

Carteret County Arts Forum

Beaufort Book Fair

Broadfoot’s North Carolina Experience

The Best of Our State Magazine Fall Convention

Friends of the Wilson County Library

St. Philip Lutheran Church North Raleigh

Sandhills Community College

Currituck County Historical Society

Mauney Memorial Library, Kings Mountain

Shepard-Pruden Library, Edenton

Friends of Bogue Banks Library

Friends of Union Co. Library

Alpha Theta Teaching Sorority

Blackbeard Sailing Club

Wayne County Reads

Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities

Beaufort County Committee of 100

Military Officers Association, Pinehurst

Tyrrell County Genealogical & Historical Society

Outer Banks History Center Annual Meeting

North Carolina Real Estate Commission Annual Meeting

Piedmont Crossings Retirement Community

Belhaven Library

NC Telecommunications Industry Association

New Bern Historical Society

National Society of the Dames of the Court of Honor

United Daughters of the Confederacy NC Div. 113th Convention

Wake North Regional Library

First Lutheran Church Greensboro

Friends of West Carteret County Library

Carolina-Virginia Telephone Association

Friends of Joyner Library, East Carolina University

Rockingham County Community College

Old Baldy Historical Association, Bald Head Island

The Schiele Museum  of Natural History

Roxboro Rotary Club

Greensboro Lecture League

NCCAT Alumni Weekend

Haywood County Public Library

Blue Ridge Community College

Order of Descendants of Ancient Planters

Tar River Sail and Power Squadron

Pirate Parley on the Pamlico

Duke University-Osher Lifelong Learning Program

District Meeting Rotary International New Bern

West Regional Library Cary

John Locke Foundation Shaftsbury Lecture Series

Raleigh Sail & Power Squadron

Federal Point Historical Association

Granville County Museum

Day At the Docks Hatteras village

Edgecombe County Veterans Museum

Mount Olive College

Rocky Mount Kiwanis Club

Flags Over Hatteras, Civil War Descendants Reunion

East Carolina University Lifelong Learning Program

Mount Airy Museum

Sandhills English Speaking Union

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“I never expected it to be so intriguing. Your stories were so interesting and colorful that I do not think one person in that little room was the least bit uninterested. I was literally on the edge of my seat for the entire presentation. I laughed, I cried, and I had so many questions to ask. I can’t wait to read more. It was like watching a captivating documentary, but live. Thank you so much for the experience.”

Valerie Boggs

Southport, NC