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Durham and Local History at the Rubenstein Library

This guide will help you research Durham history using primary source materials held at the Rubenstein Library

Digitized Rubenstein Library Collections

Orange County (N.C.) tax list ledger, 1875.
Tax lists for 1875, collecting land, stocks, personal property, poll tax payment (delineated by race), and livestock values for individuals in Hillsborough (also spelled Hillsboro), Cedar Grove, Little River, Mangum, Durham, Patterson, and Chapel Hill townships. Taxable individuals are listed alphabetically within each township's section.

Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1850s-1932
Black educator, journalist, and reformer from Raleigh, North Carolina. The entire collection has been digitized, and consist of Hunter's personal and professional correspondence, scrapbooks of clippings, articles, reports, and memorabilia. Specific topics touched on throughout his papers include race relations, voting rights, creating an educational system for African Americans, the temperance movement, reconstruction, African American business and agriculture, the North Carolina Industrial Association, and the North Carolina Negro State Fair. 

Behind the Veil: Documenting African-American Life in the Jim Crow South Records, 1940-1997
For the Behind the Veil Oral History Project, teams of researchers conducted oral history interviews with more than one thousand elderly black southerners who remembered the period of legal segregation, including many from Durham, NC and surrounding areas in North Carolina. Many interviews have been digitized and are availble online.  310 of the digitized interviews are with North Carolinians, including 44 with Durham residents.

Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers, 1926-1965
Rencher Nicholas Harris (1900-1965) was an African American businessman and civic leader of Durham, N.C. Harris was the first African American city councilman in Durham, N.C., and the first black man to sit on the Durham County Board of Education. Material from Harris's time on the Durham City Council and the Board of Education has been digitized. The digitized material includes clippings, correspondence, personal notes, and committee documents, including financial papers, maps, meeting agendas and minutes, newsletters and pamphlets, policy statements, proposals, and reports. Materials related to Harris's service on the Durham Board of Education range from audit reports of cafeteria systems and book funds to denials to requests for school integration. Additionally, there is digitized material that touches on the activities of the Committee on Human Relations, Lincoln Hospital, and the Durham NAACP (for which Harris served as president).

The Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers, 1909-1997
The Spauldings were activists in civil rights and deeply involved in local politics in Durham, N.C. The Elna Spaulding subgroup has been digitized. This includes her correspondence, material from local civic groups and organizations she was involved in, including her campaigns for and service on the Durham County Board of Commissioners (1974-1984).

Women-In-Action for the Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. Durham Chapter Records
Women-in-Action for the Prevention of Violence and its Causes is a non-profit, inter-racial organization founded in Durham, N.C. in September 1968. Elna Spaulding was founder and first president. Most of the collection is digitized including Correspondence, Administrative Files, and Conferences, Workshops, and Projects. The collection documents the organization's involvement in the Durham community on a variety of issues, including easing racial tensions; smoothing the way for court ordered school integration in 1970; providing for the recreational and cultural needs of disadvantaged youth; and establishing a clearinghouse to offer information and referral services to Durham citizens for a variety of social problems.

Hayti-Elizabeth Street Renewal Area, 1960-1962
Maps and project reports from the Durham Redevelopment Commission documenting urban renewal plans for Hayti, a historic African American neighborhood near downtown Durham.Maps depict existing and proposed structures and modifications to the Hayti neighborhood in Durham, NC. The "structural/environmental condition" map (Map one, part 4) shows "defects" to structures in Hayti.

Sam Reed Papers
Sam Reed was a community activist and organizer residing in Durham (Durham Co.), N.C.; founded the Trumpet of Conscience newsletter. Collection pertains to Reed's political and community activism, the civil rights movement, and race and labor relations issues in the South. Digitized content includes issues of the Trumpet of Conscience, correspondence, and interviews with Reed.

Digitized Books

Hiram V. Paul. History of the town of Durham, N. C., embracing biographical sketches and engravings of leading business men, and a carefully compiled business directory of Durham. Raleigh: Edwards, Broughton & co., printers, 1884.
Early history and description of Durham and the tobacco industry. Contains biographical sketches of leading businesspeople and a business directory.

Oliver B. Quick. Milestones Along the Color Line: A  Souvenir of Durham, N.C., Showing the Progress of a Race., 1922.
Created by Quick to show "property owned and controlled exclusively by Negroes in the City of Durham, N.C. [...] as evidence of the progress being made by our race group in this section of the South." Includes photographs of hotels, theatres,  and other businesses, as well as schools, churches, and private homes. 

Durham City Directories
Produced annually, city directories provide information on businesses, organizations, and institutions located within municipalities. They also contain an alphabetical listing of citizens, listing the name of the head of household, address and occupational information. Directories may also include a short history of the city, and the information may extend to surrounding areas. Find more North Carolina City Directories at Digital NC.

Other Digital Primary Sources

Digital Durham
Provides access to a wide range of manuscript and printed materials from the 1870s through the 1920s. The site also features a  collection of maps that depict Durham from the late 1860s to the present day. Digital Durham offers its users a selection of manuscript letters taken from the Southgate-Jones family papers and James Southgate papers, accounts from Atlas M. Rigsbee's general store ledger, photographs, ephemera, census data, printed works as well as a rich collection of maps.

Durham County Library Digital Collections
Digitized material from the Durham County Library's North Carolina Collection. Includes the Durham Historic Photographic Archives, with images depicting the history of Durham since 1860, Durham Urban Renewal Records, and oral histories.

NC Digital
The North Carolina Digital Heritage Center is a statewide digitization and digital publishing program featuring original materials from 273 libraries, museums, and archives across North Carolina. Content includes newspapers, city directories, and images, with options to search by county and city.