Durham North Carolina’s Black Wall Street

taken from (http://www.learnnc.org/)

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There is much known about the “Black Wallstreet” in Tulsa, Oklahoma that came to a great demise by the hands of racist whites in Tulsa. The district is also known as the first place that America dropped bombs on it’s own people, an infamous event indeed. However little is known outside of the Southeast about the Black Wall Street that was in Durham, North Carolina. Mostly built on the insurance and banking industry, Durham was a thriving are for black business.  In his visit to Durham, Booker T. Washington said “Of all the southern cities I have visited I found here the fairest attitude of the white people toward the blacks.” By 1890 the number of colored people in Durham was 1,858 or 33.8% of the total population. The year 1910 exhibited an increase of over 200% in the total population and the African American population was approximately 38% of the total. It is clear that whites were not impeding the development of this population, in light of their own endeavors. The numbers based on wealth were even more staggering. The total valuation of black property in the county was $8,696 in 1890. By 1920, this valuation skyrocketed to an astounding $4,298,067.

In the early twentieth century, Parrish Street in Durham, North Carolina, was the hub of African American business activity. This four-block district was known as “Black Wall Street,” a reference to the district of New York City that is home to the New York Stock Exchange and the nation’s great financial firms. Although other cities had similar districts, Durham’s was one of the most vital, and was well known. Parrish Street bordered the Hayti community, Durham’s main African American residential district, and the two districts together served as the center of black life in Durham.

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Elsewhere in North Carolina, in the depths of the Jim Crow era, race relations were as bad as they ever had been. But Durham’s black businessmen thrived with the tolerance, if not the active support, of their white counterparts.

In 1906, the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, the nation’s largest black-owned insurance company, moved its headquarters to Parrish Street. It was soon joined by the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and the founder of North Carolina Mutual also invested in real estate and textiles. National leaders W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington both visited the city, in 1912 and 1910, respectively, and praised black entrepreneurship and the tolerance of whites.

In the 1960s, urban renewal wiped out much of Hayti and Durham’s black business community, but by that time, Parrish Street’s heyday had passed.



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