Durham History

While much of the country was suffering during the Great Depression, Nathan Garrett’s family found a safe haven in Durham, North Carolina. At the time the city was fertile ground for the African American entrepreneur, and the Garrett family ran the local pharmacy. Nathan learned the ropes of running a business, and he fondly remembers a community that was proud and self-sustaining. He eventually left Durham to attend Yale University, where he was part of the largest influx of African American students the university had known: a class of four.

an old picture of Fayetteville Street
Courtesy of the Hayti Heritage Center

What was once the commercial and social hub of Durham’s African-American community now looks very different. The Hayti neighborhood was initially established in the years following the Civil War around St. Joseph’s Church. Black people from surrounding areas were drawn to Hayti to do their banking and business because of its proximity to Black Wall Street, and many black-owned businesses thrived in Hayti, including the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.

The Bull City Dignity Project
Kari Barclay

During the summer of 2015, a group of Durham high school students have been working on a documentary theatre production based on the true life stories of Durhamites.

    

They met with folks from all walks of life and recorded their stories. They then reinterpreted the narratives for the stage as part of The Bull City Dignity Project.