Did you know that W.E.B. Du Bois was so impressed with booming African American business and commerce in early twentieth century Durham, he wrote an essay about it?
“Du Bois’s essay ‘The Upbuilding of Black Durham’[...]sounds a hopeful note, praising a North Carolina town in which a flourishing black middle class had developed robust manufacturing and service sectors without white interference. Based on his first-hand observations, Du Bois describes a bevy of black-owned businesses including grocery stores, barber shops, drug stores, a bank, ‘a shoe store, a haberdashery, and an undertaking establishment,’ as well as factories that produced ‘mattresses, hosiery, brick, iron articles, and dressed lumber’ (pp.334-335). He praises the industry and thrift of Durham’s African American residents, noting that they own ‘a half million dollars’ worth of property,’ though their ‘pretty and well-equipped homes’ show ‘no evidence of luxury.'”
Read more about what the Harvard-educated African American activist, historian, and sociologist had to say about Durham in Documenting the American South’s monthly highlight.