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Durham’s History

A steadfast pillar. A cornerstone of progress.

Much has changed since Native Americans settled in what is now Durham along the Eno River in the 1700s. Much has not. While Durham grows, it still embraces its foundation of diversity, grit and innovation. In ways both conventional and uncommon, Durham’s path has been paved by people coming together and finding a way to spark and drive change.

In 1865, Union and Confederate armies met at Bennett Place, a small farmhouse in northern Durham, marking the largest troop surrender and effective end of the Civil War.

Six African Americans sat together and took a stand when they demanded change at the segregated Royal Ice Cream Parlor, which was one of the first sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement.

Countless brilliant minds from all over the world come to Durham, whether to attend, teach, or conduct research at Duke or North Carolina Central Universities. They also meet at the Research Triangle Park, one of the largest research parks in the world. The fruit of those minds coming together are undeniable, with such innovations as the barcode, AstroTurf, AZT and Ctrl+Alt+Delete.

From tobacco and textiles to Black Wall Street, Durham’s history has been crafted by a community of entrepreneurs. Our namesake Dr. Bartlett Leonidas Durham led the way, granting four of his 100 acres to be used by the North Carolina Railroad and “Durham Station.” Over time, Durham became known for healthcare innovation, earning us our ‘City of Medicine’ moniker. We are home to Duke University Medical Center, a hub for life-saving treatment, information technology and biotechnology.

We’re also home to the championship-winning Durham Bulls baseball team. You may know them from the cult-favorite movie Bull Durham. Evidence of our history is tucked into every brick-laden corner; our story is unapologetically painted as murals on our walls for all to encounter on their journey.

Our past is as prominent in our present and future as Major, our 10-foot-tall bronze bull in our city center. We’re the Bull City and we’ve used our hooves, head and heart to reinforce the strong qualities of our city, even in the face of adversity. Discover Durham. We’re ever-changing… and never changing.

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