Durham’s unique, strong Black history paired with geographical location set the stage for the city to be on the forefront of the Civil Rights movement. Durham’s progressive Black youth tired of the generations of poor treatment spilling over from the atrocities of slavery and who emboldened by the Civil Rights movement took the lead with non-violent protests for better education, housing, employment, and treatment.
The city became a magnet for the leaders of the movement. One such leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., came to Durham frequently to give speeches and lend his support to Durham’s youth on the forefront who inspired him. On the third Monday of every January we honor the great Martin Luther King Jr. and his work, but that wasn’t always the case. What inspires us today and inspired those on the right side of history during his time, terrified and angered those who benefited from the systems built on white supremacy ideology.
With help from NCCU Archivist Andre Vann, author of several incrediBULL North Carolina history books such as "Durham's Hayti" and "African Americans of Durham County," we've uncovered that King spent more time in the Bull City that previously thought. It was his connection to Reverend Mickey Michaux that brought him to Durham and the brave actions of Durham's youth that kept him coming back. King recognized Durham's key role in the Civil Rights movement.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Good deal, because there’s no other way to fully capture the Bull City in 250 pages. Durham’s rich history and quickly evolving narrative could fill a tome of 2000 pages, but alas ain’t nobody got time for that. Solution: pairing a reasonaBULL amount of words with dozens of stunning photos of the people and places that make Durham the greatest city.
From its inception I have said that “The Bulls of Durham” living history book is Durham’s story, I’m just lucky enough to be the medium. In line with that over 115 Durhamites have been interviewed for the book and the Durham community chose the cover art for the book in the #CoverTheBulls cover art contest. There were over 3000 votes total in the contest. Artist and Bull City native DeCario Allen won first place and artist Relly Moorer won second place becoming the famous hand on the cover of “Welcome to the Bull City.” Keeping with the mission of the project we’re finishing strong with an entire photography squad, I mean herd. Meet the incrediBULL Durhamites capturing the Bull City for the project.
The Bull City has always had a way of making headlines. Starting with the tobacco empire then onto Black Wall Street, major strides in the the Civil Rights Movement, greivously misreported crime, the downtown renaissance and :::POOF::: next thing you know Durham's the Tech Hub and foodiest city of the South. The underdog had come out on top and the former neighsayers flooded in for the jobs, entertainment and eats. Classic heartwarming story, right?
Durham. It's complicated.
In the age of mass digital media, content has become king and the internet is awash in a deluge of puff pieces. At the same time an international publication deemed Durham "the hippest city in the South," the gauntlet had been dropped IRL (in real life) in the most heated Mayorial race in the Bull City's history with the issues of racial equity, gentrification and affordaBULL housing at the forefront.
Durham. It's a tale of two cities.
A city known for it's rich history, grit and unapologetically BULLish ways is being reduced to listicles and highlight reels online. While the same estalishments garner recycled accolades, the number of minority businesses in center center dropped to the single digits. There's one black owned building on Black Wall Street in 2018.
While the Bull City can escape the clutches of foreign content farms, it hasn't been able to escape the clutches of transplanted exploitation creating homegrown content farms that make gains off of unpaid contributors. If exposure paid the bills Durham wouldn't have an unbudging, high level of poverty.
Durham. It's not going anywhere.
Fortunately, Durham's been authentic before authentic was a buzzword and, as a whole, it seems the locals aren't interested in progress exclusively for progress's sake. The locals aren't interested in being puff piece fodder. They're interested in making a future where everyone has equitable access to real, lasting success. The untapped talent of the Bull City has been overlooked far too long. It's not about speaking up for the voiceless. It's about passing the mic.
Durham. It's not interested in lip service.
An echelon of change agents have come to the forefront using the Bull City classics for success - art, education, grit, grind and community. When you cut through the haze of the hype you'll discover one such change agent humBULLy clearing the path for those to come and digging in his heels against the ravaging of the Bull.
Meet Durham Native, artist, public servant, disruptor and non-profit professional Derrick Beasley.
Digging into Durham’s history you’ll quickly come across a man named William Thomas Blackwell. W.T. Blackwell was an intense man[*]. So much so that 5 minutes into reading about him has you wondering why there hasn’t been a major motion picture about his life starring Daniel Day-Lewis or perhaps Joaquin Phoenix.
The stress he brought to the world is palpable in even the driest of history books and you’re left trying to unwind on his behalf long after you’ve put the book down. To say that Blackwell was focused on being the most successful in the tobacco industry would be a horrific and grievous understatement.
Many have recalled in books and oral history that rather than sleep Blackwell would pace the streets counting all the tobaccoo packages littering the thoroughfares and factoring how many were his brand and how many were their competitors’. Needless to say, if the ratio wasn’t to his liking the next morning’s meetings were nothing short of pure hell for all those in his employ.
Blackwell was successful at what he did. The global remnants of Bull Durham ads and the casualties of lung and throat cancer by way of tobacco are the lasting evidence of his marketing genius.
Ever been to a city that’s proud of its bricks? Throughout Durham, you’ll come across bricks with an intriguing design. To newcomers, they’re interesting and artsy. To locals, and those who’ve been here a minute, they’re a major pride point. If you’ve walked on these you’ve officially stood where history was made. These are Fitzgerald bricks.
Richard Burton Fitzgerald. Know that name for it is one of the most important in both black history and Durham’s history.
R.B. Fitzgerald was born free in Delaware in 1843 to Thomas and Sarah Fitzgerald[*]. Richard's middle name Burton was Sarah's maden name. In 1869, after the Civil War ended, and the same year Durham was officially incorporated as a city, R.B. moved to North Carolina and built a brick empire with his brother Robert as Durham grew, brick by brick. It was actually Robert who had the brick business ideal and talked R.B. into coming to Durham.