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    “Hope is a song in a weary throat.”   Pauli Murray
    The use of slave labor in NC was, from the outset, a moneymaking proposition. In 1663 eight Lord Proprietors were granted a charter from King Charles II. The Concessions of 1665”,  in which 50 additional acres were assigned to settlers based on the number of enslaved 14 years and older each brought into the colony. The 1669 Colonial Carolina Fundamental Constitution legalized slavery. By 1712 a total of 800 blacks lived in the colony and 88 years later there were 100,572 living there. At the onset of the Civil War 331,059 slaves, 33% of the population, lived in NC. @DurhamNC


    Historic Stagville is a state National Historic Site consisting of two major areas, Stagville and Horton Grove, once part of one of the state’s largest plantations. Once the property of the Bennehan-Cameron family it covered 30,000-acres and held approximately 900 enslaved individuals. Highlights of the tour include a 1780s Bennehan home furnished with era appropriate furnishings and the 1860, slave built Great Barn that is 135-ft. by 33-ft. Horton Grove was home to 80-100 slaves and a row of 4 of their houses remain. The houses are unusual two-story, 17-ft. by 17-ft. timber frame construction using wooden pegs. 


    Stagville’s mission is to research and present the stories of the plantation’s slave population. There are 30,000 documents left by the family including a unique 1776 “birth book” that records parent’s names. The narratives are a window into the daily lives of the enslaved. @stagville

    Black Business

    After the war the freedmen had few options and many stayed on the plantations as sharecroppers. Gradually Jim Crow laws were instituted to govern the rights, behavior and social interactions of African Americans.

    sign for black life insurance company Black Wall

    African Americans began migrating to the southwest section of Durham for factory employment shortly after the Civil War. They established the community of Hayti and  by 1905 it was thriving and a model for other black settlements. Parrish Street, lined with black businesses, was the heart of Black Wall Street. In the 1960s the area declined due to urban renewal.

    Black insurance co sign one cent sign

    John Merrick founded North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company in 1898. In 1910 the bank built to the 6-story Trust Building, the second tallest in NC. During the Great Depression the bank was led by Asa T. Spaulding, the first black actuary in the nation. The bank is the oldest and largest black bank and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. ncmutuallife.com
    Former slave Edian Markham founded Union Bethel AME Church in 1869. In 1891 a new church was built and renamed St. Joseph’s African Methodist Episcopal Church. The exterior bricks were made by the Fitzgeralds, black craftsmen who moved from Chester, PA to establish a brickyard in Durham. Interior tours showcase a gold- accented turquoise tin ceiling, an Art Nouveau chandelier and 24 stained glass windows. The windows depict Bible passages and, in some cases memorialize individuals such as Edian Markham and Washington Duke. 
    The original church is home to the non-profit St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, now manager of the Hayti Heritage Center. The Center preserves Durham’s African American heritage and is home to cultural spaces including a 400-seat performance venue.

    Carolina Theater

    sign on carolina theater
    stair to balcony at carolina theater during segration Lest we forget

    The racially segregated Carolina Theatre opened in 1926 as a vaudeville space but quickly began hosting  films. On the day Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961 protests began to allow black patrons to sit downstairs and not be relegated to the balcony “buzzard’s roost”. Blacks purchased tickets at a side entrance and climbed 97 rickety steps to the balcony. To protest the protests the theater denied all admission to blacks. The case was taken to court and the theater as  de-segregated in 1963. The theater was renovated and the outstanding and immersive Civil Rights Exhibit, “Confronting Change”, opened in 2014. On exhibit are the original box office, balcony and stairwell. This is very well done and must be visited. @CaroliaDurham  

    Civil Rights
    North Carolina College for Negroes was founded in 1910 by Dr. James Shepherd and in 1969 it was renamed North Carolina Central University. The university’s art collection is one of the nation’s best. The Carol G. Belk Gallery houses the permanent collection including works by Tanner and Lawrence. NCCU is on the National Register of Historic Places. 

    The 2015 Durham Civil Rights Mural was created to visually depict events and individuals who impacted the era. Martin Luther King is shown speaking during one of his 5 public visits. He cancelled his 6th trip and chose to go to Memphis instead. The 1957 Royal Ice Cream Parlor sit-in preceded the Greensboro sit-in By 3-years and is pictured here. muraldurham.com/durham-civil-rights-mural   
    Civil Rights activist Pauli Murray was a lawyer, Episcopal priest and author. She earned a master’s in divinity from the General Theological Seminary and was the first black female to earn a PhD in judical science from Yale Law School. She helped found the Congress for Racial Equality and the National Organization for Women. Her home was designated a National Treasure in 2017 and is scheduled to open later this year. paulimurrayproject.org

    Duke Campus

    duke chapel interior duke chapel interior duke chapel

    Philadelphia’s Julian Francis Abele earned his place on the mural as the African American architect designer of a large portion of Duke’s campus including its centerpiece Duke Chapel. Architecturally it was inspired by English Gothic with 77 windows the largest of which is 17.5-ft. by 38-ft. The interior chapel is 291-ft. by 63-ft. and the tower is 210-ft. tall. 

    Morehead Manor


    Durham’s sole black-owned inn is owned and operated by Monica and Daniel Edwards. The Colonial Revival home offers 4 large guestrooms, each with private bath and a complete menu of amenities. Complimentary beverages, homemade desserts and a generous breakfast are offered. Guests can find a cozy nook or walk to any of the numerous sites and attractions. Morehead Manor is available for special rentals and weekend packages.

    Bright Black’s hand-poured, soy wax, custom blended scents are candles promoting positive Black Diaspora narratives. Candles are sold in reusable black matte glass jars. Their newest line will honor the Harlem Renaissance. www.brightblackcandles.com




    Renee Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun Newspaper for the past fifteen years and has published articles on local, national and international travel in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and her areas of specialization are sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renee has been a guest radio commentator on various aspects of tourism and appeared in a documentary, "The Red Summer of 1919". As an educator for thirty years she was an English teacher, event and meeting planner, served as an educational consultant and intern-teacher mentor. She contributed to textbooks on women's history and classroom management and has facilitated workshops on both subjects. Renee considers herself a "missionary journalist" and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism.

    2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing

    IABTW- International Association of Black Travel Writers
    PBJ - Progressive Black Journalists


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