It was the mecca for African American business activity. Imagine a thriving four-block business district bursting with restaurants, grocery stores, banks, and more – an affluent, all-black, American society known as Durham Black Wall Street.
In the early part of the twentieth century, the Hayti district was the heart of the African American community in Durham, North Carolina.
Located south of downtown, the neighborhood was a combination of housing and businesses. Despite the turbulent Jim Crow era, the city thrived under the ingenuity of black entrepreneurship and the active support or tolerance of whites.
Durham’s Black Wall Street was home to several successful businesses including North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company and Mechanics and Farmers Bank.
The success of the city attracted national attention. Leaders like W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington were known to visit.
So what happened?
As Durham expanded, government officials determined that the city could benefit from a new freeway that would connect the downtown area with the expanding suburbs.
Ultimately, the Hayti district was destroyed with the addition of the expressway. This displaced hundreds of African Americans and Durham’s Black Wall Street community never recovered.
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