As “The Capital of the Black Middle Class,” Durham drew civil rights leaders and other prominent African-Americans.
Booker T. Washington
In 1910, Booker T. Washington came to Durham and visited North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance accompanied by CC Spaulding, Aaron McDuffie Moore and others responsible for the progress in Durham. Washington was impressed, saying “if blacks across the south would emulate blacks in Durham, they would be on their way to prosperity and economic security.”
In the early 1900s, W.E.B DuBois wrote about his visit to Durham saying, “There is a singular group in Durham where a black man may get up in the morning from a mattress made by black men, in a house which a black man built out of lumber which black men cut and planed; he may put on a suit which he bought at a colored haberdashery and socks knit at a colored mill; he may cook victuals from a colored grocery on a stove which black men fashioned; he may earn his living working for colored men, be sick in a colored hospital and buried from a colored church; and the Negro insurance society will pay his widow enough to keep his children in a colored school. This is surely progress.”
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
the civil rights era, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., made 5 public
appearances in Durham. The most dramatic was on February 16, 1960, as
the sit-in movement swept across the Jim Crow South. After visiting the
Durham Woolworth's, located on Parrish Street, which had closed its
lunch counter after demonstrations the previous week, King addressed a
standing-room-only crowd of 1,200 people at White Rock Baptist Church.
April 4, 1968, King was scheduled for a visit to Durham, but cancelled
at the last minute. Instead, that day, he was murdered on a motel
balcony in Memphis.