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African Americans in Durham, NC in the Rubenstein Library

Collections Documenting Black Life in the Bull City

Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center

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John Gartrell
Director, John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture

Box 90185

Durham, NC 27708


African American Life and Culture in Durham, NC

Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, freed African Americans in North Carolina began to settle into an enclave sandwiched between Wake and Orange Counties affectionately called Hayti (pronounced Hay-ti). Even after it became of the incorporated into the city of Durham, Hayti became a beacon where black owned businesses thrived and developed it's own "Black Wall Street" as the nineteenth century transitioned to the twentieth century. The African American community proved a shining example of social, economical, educational, and cultural prominence in the Jim Crow New South. With the emergence of the modern Civil Rights Movement in the mid-20th century, Durham was also a home of activism and advocacy for social justice and equality. But the dawn of the 1970's and 80's and implementation of national urban renewal programs fractured the Hayti community and African Americans had to grapple with holding on to its roots. Moving into the twenty-first century, black life in the Bull City continues to build on the legacy of the proud past and innovates for a new future. The John Hope Franklin Research Center and affiliated collecting areas in the Rubenstein Library hold many collections that document this rich history, this guide is designed to highlight selections from our holdings. 

NC Mutual Building, Parrish Street, Durham, NC