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  • Writer's pictureNia Clark

S3 E5 Durham's Black Wall Street Part 1

The beginning of an exploration into the community of Durham, North Carolina in the period following the 1898 white supremacist campaign that led to the Wilmington Insurrection and Coup D’Etat that same year. The tobacco boom in Durham in the late 1800’s helped establish the city as a center of enterprise in North Carolina. Durham’s burgeoning population in the late 19th century accelerated the city’s economic growth further still, which continued to be fueled in large part by the tobacco and textile industries. Over the next several decades the city continued to draw migrants, including Whites and Blacks, in search of steady employment and business opportunities.

Just as a small group of White entrepreneurs capitalized the proliferation of enterprise in Durham and became very successful, so did a group of African American entrepreneurs and professionals, who, over time, became patriarchs of Black Durham and de facto spokesmen for Black people in the absence of Black political participation or representation for African Americans in North Carolina. The men were responsible for the founding and success of a number of enterprises, including North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association, which later became North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company: the first black-owned insurance company in the state and the largest in the nation, The street it was located on in Durham--Parrish St.-- became known as Black Wall Street. At its height, Black Durham was considered the “Capital of the Black middle class” in America: a reputation that earned acclaim from some of the day’s most prominent leaders, including Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois.

Guests in this episode include Duke University Professor Emeritus of Public Policy, Robert Korstad, as well as North Carolina Central University business, Professor Henry McKoy.

“ ...the jobs of preparing the tobacco, the dirtiest, the hardest kind of jobs were held by African-American men and women. Women predominantly because of the hand stemming that was required...and that's one of the ways in which industrialists maintained a certain kind of order and stability. And occasionally they used black workers against white workers if...there were threats of strikes or unionization...~Duke University Professor Emeritus Robert Korstad.

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Guests in this episode

NCCU Business Professor, Henry McKoy

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