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The Black Community Leaders - Biographies

NC Mutual
N.C. Mutual Life Insurance Company. Officers. ca. 1911. Left to right: A.M. Moore, John M. Avery, John Merrick, Ed Merrick, C.C. Spaulding. Black History Exhibit, Durham County Centennial, 1981

Moore, Dr. Aaron McDuffie (1863-1923) was Durham’s first black physician and a pillar of the city’s black community. He was among the founders of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (1899) and later its president. The company, still in business today, prides itself on its early and unwavering commitment to community improvement, as described by the concept of the “Double-Duty Dollar” – profits made from insurance sales are reinvested into the community.

Moore was a major proponent of education as a means of community uplift. Eeven in the late 1880s, well before North Carolina’s white supremacy campaigns, he found the white majority of Durham hostile to his efforts in direct politics. Like other black leaders of the New South, he redirected his energies to self-help, racial solidarity, and the formation of all-black institutions. The institutions he helped establish include Lincoln Hospital (1901), where he served as superintendent, and the Durham Colored Library (1913), which later became the Stanford L. Warren Library.

Moore advocated for the employment of Jeanes teachers in Durham schools and worked to get state approval for rural schools to receive state funds, which could then be matched by Rosenwald grants. Before attending medical school, he had himself worked as a teacher, and in 1915, he authored Negro Rural School Problem. Condition-Remedy [Related Link] for the North Carolina Teachers’ Association.

  • from Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 4, pp. 292-293 and Abel, Joanne, Persistence and Sacrifice.
  • The “Endangered Durham” blog provides photographs of his home and a short profile. [Related Link]

Pearson, William Gaston (W. G.) was a leading African American educator in Durham and principal of Whitted Graded School and Hillside Park High School.

  • from The North Carolina Century: Tar Heels Who Made a Difference, 1900-2000, pp. 5, 165.

NC Mutual
North Carolina Collection, Durham County Library

Shepard, Dr. James Edward (1875-1947) founded the National Religious Training School and Chatauqua in Durham in 1910. It subsequently became the National Training School and, in 1923, the Durham State Normal School. North Carolina Central University is the successor institution to this school for educators. Like Booker T. Washington, Shepard took a conciliatory approach toward race questions, saying “we cannot legislate hate out of the world nor love into it.”

  • from Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 4, pp. 328-329 and Joanne Abel’s Persistence and Sacrifice.

Smith, William was a preacher in Rougemont. Through his advocacy the first Rosenwald school in Durham County was built, after many trials and tribulations. Building came to a halt after Frank Husband was not rehired as Durham County’s first Jeanes supervisor and again when the construction did not meet Rosenwald Fund standards. Throughout the process, Rev. Smith continually lobbied the county school board for action, going so far as to pay for some construction himself, with the idea that the board would reimburse him.  Rev. Smith also advocated for Rosenwald schools in neighboring Person County.

C. C. Spaulding
North Carolina Collection, Durham County Library

Spaulding, Charles Clinton Sr. (1874-1952) was, like his contemporary, Dr. Aaron Moore, a community leader in black Durham and a prominent businessman, serving, most notably, as president of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance from 1923 to 1952. Walter B. Weare describes him as having had “an international reputation as America’s leading black businessman.” In his capacity as a black community leader, Spaulding advocated for improvements in the community’s educational opportunities and deftly negotiated the rift between working toward racial uplift and avoiding a white backlash against such ambitions. A Democrat, he served as an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, particularly on appointments to the “black cabinet,” an informal group of black advisors on public policy, and as an advocate for the National Recovery Administration (NRA) to the black community. He was a member of the Rosenwald Fund’s board of directors.


  • from Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, vol. 5, p. 408.

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