North Carolina Black History Highlight: The History of Durham’s Black Wall Street

Black Wall Street was the hub of African-American businesses and financial services in Durham, North Carolina, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore, alongside John Merrick and C.C. Spaulding, is credited with establishing Durham’s hub for Black-owned businesses and the Black middle class.

Located within a four-block district on Parrish Street, the hub acquired a national reputation for entrepreneurship. It was home to hundreds of Black-owned businesses including the country’s first African-American bank, Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance. 

Between 1890 and 1910, Durham saw a 200 percent increase in the population of Black residents — and by 1920, Black-owned businesses and property totaled more than $4 million (that’s $51 million in 2020 dollars).

From WUNC:

Henry McKoy shares his research into the factors that contributed to the success of Durham’s Black Wall Street and the barriers to African American business development today. McKoy is the former assistant secretary of commerce for North Carolina and the current director of entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central University’s School of Business.

“If we think about what we consider to be Wall Street now, we think about capital. We think about access to capital. And that’s what Durham had in ways that many other places didn’t have,” said McKoy.

Durham, like many other parts of the state, is no stranger to African-American led innovation and our state continues to grow and prosper through innovations from modern day leaders within our communities. 

And although Black History Month concluded yesterday, the importance of Black representation and celebration has not. Our mini-series has highlighted just a fraction of prominent Black leaders from North Carolina, who have shaped our state and our history through their contributions to arts, sciences, politics, etc. 

There are many more stories of heroes, scientists, writers, activists, and more to educate and learn about not just throughout February, but throughout the year. We encourage you to continue to challenge yourself and others to be educated — aware of the triumphs and trials that have and continue to shape our collective experience together.

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Alanna Joyner

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