Black History Month in Durham
Back in 1912, W. E. B. du Bois wrote an article titled “The Upbuilding of Black Durham. The Success of the Negroes and their Value to a Tolerant and Helpful Southern City.” In it, he praised the Bull City for the strong and successful black community here, holding it out as an example for the rest of the South.
In the late 1950s, Rev. Douglas Moore, a classmate of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., pioneered the sit-in protest tactic that was used throughout NC and the South, including at the Royal Ice Cream Company in Downtown Durham. During this peak of the Civil Rights movement, Dr. King came to Durham to give his famed “fill up the jails” speech at White Rock Baptist Church.
A little over 20 years later, Dr. John Hope Franklin – a preeminent historian, author of From Slavery to Freedom, and future recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – joined the faculty at Duke. His legacy is preserved there with the John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies.
In short, Durham is rich in African-American History. This Black History Month, take a walk through Durham, attend one of many events celebrating the occasion, and discover this city’s place in the history of the fight for civil rights and racial justice.
To learn more about the people and places that played a role in Durham’s black history, view the African-American Heritage Guide. Complete with listings of historical sites, profiles, and a map to help navigate, it provides an overview of the contributions of African Americans in Durham. Printed copies are available at the Visitor Information Center at 101 E. Morgan St.
Listed below are several related events to check out in Durham:
- MLK/Black History Month Parade: Durham’s annual parade in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month begins at W. G. Pearson Elementary school and proceeds along Fayetteville St. to North Carolina Central University. The event is free and begins at noon, featuring floats, marching bands, steppers, and more.
- Stagville Under the Stars: In North Durham you’ll find Historic Stagville, the site of what was once one of the largest plantations in the South. On February 7, from 6 until 8 p.m., Stagville will partner with Morehead Planetarium to offer an exploration of the stars and the African myths surrounding them. Guests will also have the chance, as they do every day at Stagville, to walk through historic structures and learn about the lives of the enslaved. Admission is free.
- Dancing the African Diaspora and Urban Bush Women: From February 7-9, Duke is hosting a conference titled “Dancing the African Diaspora: Theories of Black Performance.” The conference features lectures from scholars, film screenings, and, at 8 p.m. on the 7th and the 8th, two premiere performances from the Urban Bush Women set to the music of the Great Migration. Registration for the full conference is $100 and tickets for the Urban Bush Women’s performances are $15 for guests under 30 and $32-$38 otherwise.
- Hayti Heritage Film Festival: Hayti was an independent community black community to the south and east of Downtown Durham. It’s the heart of the community that du Bois praised with such joy. An urban renewal project in the 1950s unfortunately destroyed many of the historic structures in the area as the city of Durham grew and incorporated Hayti, but its legacy is preserved in the Hayti Heritage Center. They will host their annual film festival on February 12-15. More details will be announced soon.
The longest-running juried outdoor arts festival in North Carolina, showcasing over 140 juried visual and performing artists from across the country. Also featuring food and family entertainment. Suggested donation at the gates will go toward funding the festival.