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  • Writer's pictureNia Clark

S3 E8 Pioneering Black Durham: Success, Sacrifice and Setbacks

The pioneers and leaders of Black Durham during the early 20th century are often lauded for steering their community through the challenges of living in the Jim Crow South while creating some of the most successful African American-lead businesses, educational and financial institutions of the era. The legacy of Durham’s Black Wall Street along with the historic and prosperous Hayti community remain among the more celebrated of their accomplishments. Often absent from dialogue surrounding this history are the complicated choices that Black Durham’s leaders had to make in order to facilitate the development of their community, and how those choices impacted their own constituents as well as the race as a whole. Black Durham’s citizens sometimes had competing viewpoints and disagreed on what direction the ship should be steered in order to support African American advancement. Additionally, while stories of Black Durham’s leadership are often drawn from scholarly sources, listeners will hear from the direct descendants of two of Durham’s most influential pioneers: John Merrick and Dr. Aaron Moore. Not only were the men business partners and friends, eventually they also became family. Greensboro, NC City Attorney Charles D. Watts Jr., Esq. and his sister, Eileen Watts Welch, who serves as the President of the Durham Colored Library, Inc., offer personal perspectives on their family history and legacy.

The history of black life insurance companies in North Carolina and in America basically started after slavery when white insurance companies weren't sure that Black people were going to survive. I mean, just kind of insane to think that, my folks made it through 200 years of abject slavery and white folks were concerned that they weren't going be able to make it in a free world. ~Chuck Watts
Guests in this episode

Eileen Watts Welch (pictured with her mother, Lyda Constance Merrick Watts)

Charles D. Watts Jr.

Musical Attribution:

1. Title: African Moon by John Bartmann. License, disclaimer and copyright information: CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication

Link to Music:

2. Title: Window Sparrows by Axletree. Licensed under a Attribution License. License, disclaimer and copyright information: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Link to music:

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