Durham, North Carolina is a city that has a rich history. The city is believed to the location of an old Native American village. However, the city saw its peak during the 20th century when it became one of the most popular and successful African American communities in the country.
Railroads And Tobacco
In the mid-1850s, four acres of land was sold by Dr. Bartlett Durham to the North Carolina Railroad Company. The land was purchased in order to build a railroad station that would be convenient to both Raleigh and Hillsborough. It was not that long after the land purchase that the area was turned into a settlement. Eventually, this settlement was transformed into the city of Durham.
In 1854, the first tobacco company opened in the city, and a little over a year later, Durham became the location for bothe Confederate and Union soldiers to gather. The troops gathered at the Durham Station as the Confederate General, Joseph Johnson, surrendered to the Union General, General William T. Sherman. This surrender helped to mark the end of the Civil War.
During the visit to Durham, Union soldiers tasted and like the bright tobacco leaves. This helped to propel the growth of the tobacco industry in Durham, and this helped to lead the city into prosperity.
By the late 1880s, the population of Durham grew to over 2000. The textile mills in the city began to explode around the railroad lines, and it was not too long before insurance companies and banks appeared in the city as money continued to flow into Durham.
The Growth Of African-American Businesses
In 1890s, the largest and oldest African-American owned life insurance company opened in Durham. North Carolina Life Insurance Company was founded by John Merrick. In 1907, M&F Bank, the largest African-American bank in the country, also opened in Durham. Both of these institutions were located on Parrish Street, and it was not too long before the neighborhood began attracting other African-American owned businesses.
The neighborhood quickly became known around the country as ‘Black Wall Street’. In the early part of the 20th century, North Carolina Central University was also founded in Durham. Dr. James E. Shephard founded the university, and it became known as the first publicly funded college for African-Americans in the United States.
The sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement also began in Durham. During this era, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.made appearances in the city several times. However, the most dramatic appearance occurred in 1960 at Woolworth in Durham.
Durham’s unique history has helped to propel it into the history books. Duke University and the Research Triangle Park nearby has kept the city an excellent option for those who are looking to invest.