Category Archives: Culture & The Arts

New History Grove honors Trinity College/Duke University Professor


The MoDH partners with local organizations to establish “History Groves”: small groves of native plants, a bench, and a plaque to honor those who played significant roles in creating our unique community. Here visitors can pause and reflect, and every site has a durable marker naming the honoree. Check out a list of all of our History Groves and learn more here.

What a way to kick off the new year! On January 13th, we had the pleasure of dedicating a new History Grove at Trinity Park in honor of Dr. William Kenneth Boyd. Dr. Boyd was a history professor at Trinity College/ Duke University who dedicated much of his research efforts to early Durham history. His book, The Story of Durham: City of the New South, is an extraordinary chronicle of our city’s past.

The dedication ceremony was a wonderful tribute to Dr. Boyd and his family, who have resided in the Trinity Park neighborhood for generations. In fact, Cavett French, Boyd’s daughter, was in attendance and shared memories of her family and the community. Others in attendance also took the opportunity to share their stories and memories of the neighborhood.

The Trinity Park grove will be added to our History Groves page and map shortly! Special thanks to the Trinity Park Neighborhood Association, Shelley Dekker, Julia Borbely-Brown, Cavett French, and MANY others for their part in making this grove possible. Thank you to all of our generous donors, especially those who choose to specifically donate to the museum’s History Groves program; these groves provide the community with beautiful spaces to reflect on Durham’s history!

...[READ MORE]   Source: Durham History Hub

First Person Perspective: The Allure of Snow

By Maxwell S. Joseph                                                                   

The Snow Building is a bridge between the past and future of Durham. The Art Deco facade, terrazzo floors, and the classic crank elevator cabs all harken back to a time when Five Points was the center of a burgeoning American Metropolis. The diverse set of small businesses that still operate out of the Snow Building—including an underground speakeasy, a graphic design firm, a gourmet restaurant, and a literary publisher—are the bedrock of Durham’s rebirth as a thriving 21st century hub.

We purchased the Snow Building in 2015 with a belief in the fundamentals of Durham. The century-old foundation of Durham businesses, coupled with the recent repositioning of the city as a center for innovation, ensures the long-term value of downtown Durham real estate as a whole. Consequently, we’re investing heavily in the building—reimagining the common areas, updating building systems, and adding a full-floor penthouse to the top story.

The Snow Building is undergoing an exciting transformation, which we believe will improve the building experience both for our tenants and for the area. We are proud to be a part of the downtown Durham community and are looking forward to reintroducing the Snow Building to the Bull City.

The Woman Who Made Snow exhibit opens at the Museum of Durham History, 500 W. Main St. on December 15, 2017, with a reception that is FREE and open to the public. Exhibition presenting sponsor:


Hem + Spire is a real estate investment and management company that specializes in reinvigorating historical and landmarked commercial properties. Founded in 2015 by Duke University graduate Maxwell S. Joseph. Hem + Spire was born out of a belief in Durham’s fundamental strengths, and a desire to invest in its promising future.

Image courtesy of Edgar Carr
...[READ MORE]   Source: Durham History Hub

Snow Building Exhibit Opening

Opening event for our newest exhibit on the historic Snow Building. Complimentary refreshments and entertainment during December’s Third Friday!

One of the finest Art Deco buildings in North Carolina, the Snow Building of West Main Street, Durham had its distinctive beginning in 1930 at the hands of a woman. Mrs. Anna Exum Snow commissioned the building in the 1920s, a mere few years after women in North Carolina were given the right to vote. This sweeping social change was just the beginning of Durham’s transformation, and the iconic Snow Building became a stalwart witness to this city’s evolution.

...[READ MORE]   Source: Durham History Hub

75th anniversary of gathering at NCCU to discuss issues facing black citizens during 1940’s

Friday, October 20 will mark the 75th anniversary of a landmark gathering of Negro academicians, journalists, and activists on the campus of North Carolina College at Durham.  This gathering tackled several looming civil rights issues facing black citizens during the World War II era.

The following article by the late Dr. Ray Gavins of Duke University first appeared in the monthly column in the News and Observer and also in the Triangle Downtowner. It was originally posted on our site in November, 2013. 

Following the Southern Conference on Race Relations, held at Durham’s North Carolina College (NCC) on October 20, 1942, a subcommittee issued on December15 “A Basis for Inter-Racial Cooperation and Development in the South: A Statement by Southern Negroes.”  Touted as the Durham Manifesto, it was a catalyst of the postwar civil rights movement in our state and the South.

The conference broadcast heightening racial injustice and black-white conflict during the war, and needed reform.  Its chairman, editor-publisher P. B. Young of the Norfolk Journal and Guide; secretary-treasurer, professor Luther P. Jackson of Virginia State College; and director, professor Gordon B. Hancock of Virginia Union University, were respected race moderates and its main sponsors.  They sent invitations to seventy-five influential blacks living and working in the South, including W. E. B. Du Bois of Atlanta University.  Fifty-seven attended, five of them women.  Twenty-one supporters wrote letters or telegrams.  Moderates, many affiliated with the Atlanta-based Commission on Interracial Cooperation or state chapters, were common among the conference’s ministers; college and university presidents, deans, and faculty; parochial and public school principals and teachers; businesspeople; newspapermen; physicians; labor union officials; social workers; New Orleans Urban League and Southern Negro Youth Congress representatives.

Among the eleven North Carolinians participating were presidents James E. Shepard of NCC, H.L. McCrorey of Johnson C. Smith University, Charlotte H. Brown of Palmer Memorial Institute, and C. C. Spaulding of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.  Defending the decision to omit northern black participation, Hancock, in a Statement of Purpose, declared “the Southern Negro is today speaking for himself. . . .  We are hoping in this way to challenge the constructive cooperation of that element of the white South who express themselves as desirous of a New Deal for Negroes.”  Groups then scrutinized seven issues: political and civil rights; industry and labor; service occupations; education; agriculture; armed forces; social welfare and health.  When proceedings ended, Benjamin E. Mays, president of Morehouse College, recommended writing a statement “commensurate with the possibilities of the occasion.”  Accordingly, the body chose a sub-editorial committee, chaired by sociologist Charles S. Johnson of Fisk University, to write it.

The finished document judiciously stated blacks’ opposition to Jim Crow, plus their civic  priorities, and challenged moderate and liberal whites to join them in pursuing equal citizenship and justice for all.  It announced: “We are fundamentally opposed to the principle and practice of compulsory segregation in our American society, whether of races or classes or creeds, however, we regard it as both sensible and timely to address . . . current problems of racial discrimination and neglect.”  Its key demands included the right to vote; abolition of the poll tax, white primary, harassment of voters, and police abuses; a Federal antilynching law; Negro jury and government representation; fair employment of Negro police officers, defense workers, and workers’ right of collective bargaining; Social Security benefits for service and farm occupations; equalization of    teachers’ salaries, school facilities, and higher education opportunities; ending the segregated U.S. Military; and publicly-funded hospitals’ inclusion of Negro patients.  “The correction of these problems is not only a moral matter,” it concluded, “but a practical necessity in winning the war and in winning the peace.”

The statement drew extensive comment, the bulk of it favorable.  “We commend to both whites and Negroes for careful consideration the Durham manifesto,” the Newport News Daily Press commented, typifying the response of many white newspapers.  “It contains little that is not fundamentally sound–things which American citizens have a right to expect.”  Echoing a general sentiment in the black press, the Houston Informer editorialized that “the conference statement is a historical achievement . . . a charter of Negro rights which all Negroes in the South can adhere to.”  Yet the Durham Carolina Times was critical: “About the only purpose it can serve is to give Negro intellectuals in the South an opportunity to show off by appearing profound . . .  They no more have the leadership of the mass of Negroes in the South than if they didn’t exist.”  Even so, NAACP head Walter F. White endorsed the manifesto, as did Du Bois, who judged that “on the whole the Durham program is a pretty good document. . . .  I would not be unwilling to sign it.”

The manifesto is hardly remembered.  But it initiated all-white and interracial conferences that, by 1944, formed the Southern Regional Council, which became a crucial vehicle for black-white conciliation, voting rights, school desegregation, and other reforms.  It  also paved the way for the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs, North Carolina Committee on Negro Affairs, and North Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches’ organizing and protests, which reflected the “core of black activism in the South through the 1950s.”

Below, please find other references to this gathering, which is often called, The Durham Manifesto.

UNC  Library Essay on the Durham Manifesto

Official Report from the Oct. 20, 1942 Gathering

Obituary for Duke Historian, Ray Gavins (photo courtesy of Duke Today)

...[READ MORE]   Source: Durham History Hub

New exhibit highlights Durham entrepreneur Nello Teer Sr.– opening event Sept. 15th

Many in Durham have heard the Teer name, but few know the backstory of the family or company it founded. A crippling injury, Jim Crow denouncement, Blue Ridge Parkway contribution, even RDU rattlesnakes — these are just a few of the details found in a tale that spans more than a century and extends to countries around the world. The Museum of Durham History tells that story in its newest exhibit, DON’T QUIT: The Nello Teer, Sr. Story, set to open September 15th at the Museum, 500 W. Main St., and run through December 15th.

The exhibit will launch with a public reception from 6:00pm to 8:30pm on the 15th, coinciding with the Museum’s regular involvement in Durham’s Third Fridays. Complimentary light refreshments and beverages will be available, and jazz guitarist Ashesh Chatterjee will perform under the gazebo. Robb Teer, Nello Sr.’s grandson, will be on hand to sign copies of his book Courage Ever – An American Success Story – Nello L. Teer, Sr. & His Company.

Museum Board member Renee Snyderman is curator for the exhibit, which features vintage images and lively text describing an enterprise that began with a mule team and a wagon and grew into one of the world’s largest construction companies.

“This is a real bootstrap American story,” said the Museum’s Interim Executive Director Patrick Mucklow. “The exhibit lends a uniquely Durham perspective to some of the major events of the 20th century.”

...[READ MORE]   Source: Durham History Hub

A Message from the MoDH

Human history is more than a lifeless list of dates and events. It is the story of people. The Museum of Durham History uses such stories to foster curiosity, encourage further inquiry and promote an understanding about diverse perspectives about the Durham community.

To be responsible, a museum must include ugly chapters of the narrative because these, too, are part of our overall heritage. Slavery was just such a chapter, and we see its lasting effects in the divisiveness that continues to plague America with feelings fueled by symbolic reminders such as monuments, flags and offensive words.

The statue in front of Durham’s old courthouse commemorated Confederate soldiers who’d died in the Civil War. The statue was erected in 1924 and sponsored by the local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapter who may have felt the 1923 Unity monument erected at the Bennett Place surrender site had received inordinate attention. But the courthouse statue, toppled last week, was a reminder of bigotry and oppression, a lightning rod for destructive behavior that has no place in a vibrant, forward-looking Durham.

The museum’s goal is to help Durham learn from its history, not repeat it. We promote a culture of inclusiveness in our telling of Durham’s stories and strongly condemn hate-filled rhetoric and actions whose aim is to denigrate and incite.  A war-weary Abraham Lincoln said it best in his second inaugural address when he urged our nation “with malice toward none, with charity for all … to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”



The Museum of Durham History is a 21st-century museum that uses stories about people, places and things to foster curiosity, encourage further inquiry, and promote an understanding of diverse perspectives about the Durham community and its history. The museum is putting its mission into action through a personal approach to history that sets this museum apart: an innovative, community model that engages with history through stories—the personal memories, experiences and family lore of our shared heritage.


We believe that history is relevant to understanding Durham today.

The museum documents and shares all of Durham’s stories, particularly those that traditionally have not been made a part of the historical record.

We confront difficult issues, encourage questions, and listen and learn from each other.

We take risks and experiment; success and failure are opportunities for learning.

The museum continually works to earn the trust of its community, partners and supporters.

...[READ MORE]   Source: Durham History Hub
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