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Black Stories of Durham’s past & present 

Black history lives and breathes among Durham streets, transforming into pathways of possibility as Durhamites of color build new legacies and write new stories.

Many parts of Durham’s history have been marred by injustice. We don’t, and won’t, hide those facts. Despite formidable challenges, Durham's Black community responded to the difficulties they faced with a strength and ingenuity that influenced the experience of Black people across the country. Durham is proud of and shaped by the contributions of this extraordinary community.

Durham's Black Stories

Durham's Black History

Durham's Black History

Telling stories of Durham’s past and present

Like much of the antebellum South, Durham was home to several plantations during the 1800s, including Stagville, one of the largest in the region. Approximately 900 enslaved Black people lived and worked on its 30,000 acres. These individuals' lives are well documented: they worked as laborers, skilled craftsmen, and artisans who built most of the plantation buildings. Within their quarters, rich cultural traditions were cultivated, including crafts, music, dance, and social customs often continued from African origins.

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Durham's Black-owned Businesses

Durham's Black-owned Businesses

Reclaiming history with present-day business ventures

Durham has a strong history of diversity and entrepreneurial prowess. Black Wall Street became a moniker for Durham's West Parrish Street, a hub of Black-owned business that blossomed during the early 1900s. What you may not have read in your school textbooks was the thrilling historical narrative of Durham's unapologetic position as a successful urban epicenter at the turn of the century.

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Durham's Black Art

Durham's Black Art

Honoring the richness of Black history and culture through creativity

In Durham, any blank space can become a canvas, and it is common to see murals on walls, crosswalks, and electrical boxes. Not only do these murals add vibrant colors and energy to this city, but they also tell stories that need to be told. This guide highlights public art dedicated to celebrating Durham's Black history, culture, and artists.

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Durham’s Black Wall Street

Reviving the spirit of Black Wall Street with Black businesses

During the late 1800s and early 1900s, Durham’s Black Wall Street was an African American entrepreneurial enclave full of Black-owned businesses like NC Mutual Life Insurance Company and M&F Bank. The 1960s urban renewal project removed much of Durham's Black Wall Street and destroyed the surrounding Hayti community.

Today, Nicole Oxendine, founder and CEO of Empower Dance Studio, is reviving the Black entrepreneurial spirit of Black Wall Street through movement and dance.

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Durham's Black Events

Durham's Black Events

Celebrating Black history, culture and traditions through events

Grit, fortitude, and the unapologetic pursuit of justice are lasting legacies of a community that influenced the progress of Americans toward equality from coast to coast. As Durhamites, we stand in the shadow of those who came before us, strengthened by the seeds of justice and equality planted here long ago. We invite you to reflect and experience the history of Black people and celebrate Black culture through Durham events and activities.

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Durham’s African American Heritage Guide

Durham’s African American Heritage Guide

Continuing the tradition of storytelling to learn historical truths

Far from iron encased behind glass facades, Black history lives and breathes among Durham streets traversed for generations. Markers, murals, homes, and heritage coalesce to honor the stories of our African American community, and here, we humbly continue in the treasured tradition of storytelling. We encourage you to explore Durham’s African American Heritage Guide to learn about the people, places, and events that helped shape Durham into what it is today.

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