African Americans in Durham
The John Hope Franklin Research Center contains many materials pertaining to African American life in Durham, North Carolina in the twentieth century. Researchers interested in African American life in Durham should see the following collections:
- Helen G. Edmonds Papers
- African-American educator and historian; professor of history at N.C. Central University, Durham, N.C. Collection contains primarily correspondence and printed materials, including speeches, clippings, and photocopies. Two large sections of materials concern her interests and
activities as a member of the Republican Party and her work as an alternate delegate to the U.N. General Assembly, 1970. Some materials relate to her work with the National Peace Corps Advisory Council, to educational exchange, consultations in Europe and Israel, and other work experiences in an international context. Papers representing her duties as a college professor are limited.
- Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers
- African American businessman and civic leader of Durham, N.C. The Rencher
Nicholas Harris Papers span the years from 1851 to 1980, with the bulk
dating from 1926 to 1965. The collection consists mainly of clippings,
correspondence, legal papers, photographs, printed materials, and
reports relating to Harris' work in political and educational affairs in
Durham, North Carolina in the 1950s and early 1960s as a member of the
City Council and the School board, his business career in banking,
insurance, and real estate, as an official of the Bankers' Fire
Insurance Company, and his civic activities. Some biographical materials
and correspondence also relate to his wife, Plassie Williams Harris.
- Chris D. Howard Papers
- Duke University (Durham, N.C.) undergraduate. Collection contains Howard's research
material for an honors thesis. There are fifteen envelopes of research
notes, chronologically arranged, covering the years 1854-1965. The notes
concern the early history of Durham, and events related to the struggle
for racial equality in Durham, N.C. There are notes and outlines of
interviews (cassette tapes and telephone conversations) and a list of
persons interviewed by Howard, including Mary Trent Semans, Floyd
McKissick, and other persons who participated in, or witnessed this
struggle. Also included are copies of two papers, written by other Duke
students in 1972 and 1978, about the Civil Rights movement in Durham,
N.C., during the early 1960s.
- Benjamin Muse Papers. Memoranda Series
- Politician and author, of Reston, Va. Correspondence, writings, addresses,
memoranda, printed material, and clippings, documenting Muse's career as
a soldier in World War I; secretary in the diplomatic services
(1920-1934); Virginia state senator (1936); activist in the Republican
Party; officer in World War II; and director of the Leadership Project,
Southern Regional Council (1959-1964). Includes drafts and research
notes for his books, Tarheel Tommy Atkins (1963); Ten years of prelude:
the story of integration since the Supreme Court's 1954 decision (1964);
and The American Negro revolution: from nonviolence to Black Power,
1963-1967 (1968); and memoranda (1959-1964) for the Southern Regional
Council on his travels through the South and talks with Southern leaders
on race relations.
- Gwendolyn M. Parker Papers
- The papers of Gwendolyn M. Parker, which primarily document her writing
career, span the years 1967-1998 with the majority of the papers dating
from 1986-1997. They consist primarily of diaries, correspondence,
clippings, writings, and other miscellaneous printed and manuscript
materials. Parker's writings are well documented by several manuscript
versions of her 1994 novel, These Same Long Bones, and her 1997 memoir,
Trespassing: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege. The latter work
documents her struggles as an African-American woman in a corporate
environment. Parker's correspondence is chiefly professional and related
to her efforts to publish her work, but a small amount of personal
correspondence is held in the collection. The clippings are primarily
reviews of her books or published interviews. The personal observations,
story ideas, and writing exercises recorded in Parker's diaries provide
some documentation of her life and artistic career, chiefly after 1986.
- William Gaston Pearson Papers
- Durham, N.C. African-American businessman, educator, philanthropist, and civic leader. Scrapbook of clippings and printed
material which reflects the business accomplishments and life of William
Pearson, who founded the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., the
Mechanics and Farmers Bank, the Durham Drug Co., and other businesses in
Durham, N.C., primarily in banking, credit, and insurance.
- Sam Reed papers
- The Sam Reed Papers span the years 1986-2001, and pertain to the
political activism of Sam Reed of Durham, North Carolina, particularly
in connection with the civil rights movement and subsequent race and
labor relations issues in the South. The collection consists of the
records of the Durham organization founded by Reed, Trumpet of
Conscience, and a run of the newsletter of the same name, 1987-2000.
Other papers include correspondence to Reed; biographical information,
interviews, speeches, and articles by and about Sam Reed; and awards
honoring Reed and the organization he founded.
- Fannie B. Rosser Papers
- Correspondence, legal and financial papers, and photographs document the
personal relationships and professional activities of Rosser, a
successful single African-American businesswoman. Correspondence,
1920s-1940s, pertains to Rosser's business ventures in regard to the
management of her rental property in Lynchburg, Va., and Durham, N.C.;
personal loans made to family and friends during the Depression; and her
investments in government stocks and bonds. Later correspondence
centers around her relationships with her foster daughter and her niece.
Family photographs date back to ca. 1860s and include snapshots of
Rosser and her friends in the 1920s and her daughter's family in Fresno,
Calif., in the 1960s.
- Clydie Fullwood Scarborough Papers
- Includes correspondence, financial papers, legal and administrative
papers, clippings, writings, and printed material pertaining to the
Scarborough Nursery School, Talladega College, the United Fund Agency
and other non-profit organizations, and John C. Scarborough, Mrs.
Scarborough's husband. The collection documents, in part, the work of
Mrs. Scarborough to provide effective and healthy daycare for
African-American children in Durham, N.C. Includes photographs of the
Scarborough Nursery School, a 1946 report from the Education Planning
Council for Durham, N.C. City Schools, Fullwood family genealogical
papers, and documents from the North Carolina Daycare Association.
- Asa and Elna Spaulding Papers
- Asa T. Spaulding
was an insurance executive in Durham, N.C. and an activist in civil
rights, education, employment, and other work related to minorities'
rights. He held various positions in the North Carolina Mutual Life
Insurance Company for almost thirty-five years, beginning as its actuary
in 1933 and serving as its fifth president from 1958 through 1967. Elna
Bridgeforth Spaulding was an activist in civil rights for minorities
and women and involved in local politics in Durham, N.C, serving as a
Durham County Commissioner for five terms, from 1974 through 1984. The Asa and Elna
Spaulding Papers, 1909-1997 and undated, bulk 1935-1983, document an
African American family's lifelong involvement in the business,
political, educational, religious, and social life of Durham, N.C.
- Charles C. Spaulding Papers
- President of North Carolina Mutual Life
Insurance Company, 1923-1952, located in Durham (Durham Co.), N.C. The
company is the oldest African-American life insurance company. The collection (99-481)(19000 items)
contains photos, miscellaneous business papers, programs, speeches,
clippings related to C. C. Spaulding, black civil rights, and to
African-American life more generally (organized by subject), in addition
to payroll ledgers and various publications created by and related to
North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. These papers document the
growth of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Spaulding's and
the company's connection to the community, their pride in that
community, and their involvement in African-American issues (local and
beyond) and livelihood.
- Earl E. Thorpe Papers
- Clergyman, historian, and social activist. Primarily, materials in the collection address Thorpe's work at North
Carolina Central University (formerly North Carolina College), and his
stints as a visiting professor at Harvard and Duke universities.
Thorpe's service as chair of the program committee for the 1979 meeting
of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History
(ASALH), and his term as president of the ASALH in 1980 are also well
represented. The bulk of the collection consists of the personal and
professional correspondence of Thorpe. Personal correspondence with
family and students, and material reflective of Thorpe's life in the
ministry are scattered throughout.
- Charles DeWitt Watts
- Pioneering African American surgeon who was chief of surgery at Lincoln Hospital, clinical professor
of surgery at Duke University, director of student health at North
Carolina Central University, and vice president and medical director for
North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. Spanning the period of 1917 to 2004, the Charles DeWitt Watts. Papers contain files related to Watts'
education, family, community activities, centered in Durham, N.C., and
his career as a surgeon, administrator, and trustee on several boards.
There is material on the formation in 1901 of Lincoln Hospital, a
medical care facility for African Americans in Durham, N.C.. and other
items on the early 20th century history of Durham, but the bulk of the
papers relate to the later half of the 20th century. Formats primarily
consist of correspondence, reports, notes, speeches, photographs, and
- North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company Archives
- The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company Archives documents the
development of N.C. Mutual in Durham, N.C., and contributes to the
historic record on African American businesses and entrepreneurship in
the South and in the United States. Dating from 1850 to 2008, with the
majority of the items dating from 1898-2008, the material covers nearly
every aspect of N.C. Mutual's operations, management, and milestones.
Documents take the form of corporate office files, including the offices
of five company presidents; annual statements; reports; surveys; memos;
legal and financial papers; original life insurance policies; training
material; programs; ephemera and artifacts; and a large number of
historical photographs of staff and their families, offices, buildings,
and Durham scenes.
- Women-in-Action For Prevention of Violence and Its Causes, Inc. Durham Chapter Records
- Non-profit, inter-racial organization founded in Durham, N.C. in September 1968. Elna Spaulding was founder and first president. Collection
comprises correspondence, by-laws, meeting agendas and minutes, budgets,
articles of incorporation, as well as information about the
organization's relationship to the Women In Action Foundation of Durham,
N.C. Documents the organization's involvement in the Durham community
on a variety of issues, including easing racial tensions; smoothing the
way for court ordered school integration in 1970; providing for the
recreational and cultural needs of disadvantaged youth; and establishing
a clearinghouse to offer information and referral services to Durham
citizens for a variety of social problems.
- Youth Document Durham and Durham Works Project Records
- Youth Document Durham and Durham Works were programs sponsored by Duke
University and the Center for Documentary Studies that brought together
young people ages 12–16 from diverse Durham communities to document
their lives, local history, and contemporary social issues through
photography, oral history, and narrative writing.
Oral History Collections
American Communities Oral History Collection
- American Communities: An Oral History
Approach was a course associated with the oral history project Behind
the Veil at Duke's Center for Documentary Studies. The course was taught
by Paul Ortiz at Duke University in 1996-1997. Collection (00-183) includes a course
syllabus, interviews of African-American North Carolinians on cassette
tapes, some student self-evaluations, contracts, indices, and transcript
excerpts. The area most represented is Durham, N.C. Students were to
aim for insight into how African-Americans built communities during an
age of racial oppression. The interviews include much information about
family history and social and community issues.
- Behind the Veil: Documenting African American Life in the Jim Crow South
- The Behind the Veil Oral History Project was undertaken by Duke
University's Lyndhurst Center for Documentary Studies in 1990. It seeks
to record and preserve the living memory of African-American life during
the age of legal segregation in the American South, from the 1890s to
- Duke University Oral History Program Collection
- Collection containing 238 oral history interviews conducted by project
participants in the years 1973-1978 and 1992. Most interviews deal with
the civil rights movement in North Carolina, especially Durham, Chapel
Hill, and Greensboro. Thirteen interviews deal with the Tulsa Race
Riots, and fourteen cover miscellaneous North Carolina topics.
Collection also includes transcripts and research files related to the
civil rights movement in North Carolina.
- Eva J. Salber Papers
- Physician and professor of community and family medicine. Contains correspondence; financial papers;
writings and speeches; clippings; photographs, many by Dominic
D'Eustachio; reports; minutes; scrapbooks; training manuals; student
papers; printed material; audiovisual materials; and lecture notes
chiefly relating to Salber's publications, teaching career, and work as a
community health physician. Publications highlighted include CARING AND
CURING (New York, N.Y. 1975); DON'T SEND ME FLOWERS WHEN I'M DEAD
(Durham, N.C. 1983), containing interviews with the rural elderly in
Durham County, N.C.; and THE MIND IS NOT THE HEART (Durham, N.C. 1989).
Her work in the community health field is documented primarily in her
writings, the papers about the Martha M. Eliot Family Health Center, and
the Health Facilitator Program, which was administered through the Duke
University Medical Center Department of Community and Family Medicine.
Griffith J. Davis Papers
Photos in Rencher Nicholas Harris Papers
Documentary Photography Collection
Last modified September 12, 2011 1:43:05 PM EDT