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The history of Durham, North Carolina, though not long, is rich, and no aspect of it is richer than that of its African-American community. Durham has many stories to tell: the neighborhood that was Hayti, the businesses on Parrish Street ("Black Wall Street"), Durham blues, the first African-American female Episcopal priest, and the first black-owned insurance company in the U.S. Each of these, as well as many more, make up the complex history of the Bull City.

Project History

The Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project focuses on one set of those stories—those about the Civil Rights Movement in Durham. The project's main focus was to collect photographs depicting the movement in Durham. Oral histories of Durham's civil rights era were also gathered. These stories and images only begin to depict the events that happened here and the changes that came about because of them.

The project officially began in May 2003, and community collection days were planned for various sites around Durham. The project sponsored three collection days: one at the Durham County Library, one at the Hayti Heritage Center, and one at St. Joseph's AME Church. Sixteen oral histories were recorded and nearly 12530 photographs were collected from both private individuals and professional photographers.

The DCRHP used the materials gathered to create a public art project of 11, 6' tall banners hung in artful handcrafted frames. The banners incorporated photographs, quotes from interviews with local people, and text to depict some of the history of the Civil Rights Movement in Durham. The banners traveled to schools, malls, libraries, storefronts, and other locations for over 10 years and now reside in the Stanford L. Warren Library, a branch of the Durham County Library on Fayetteville street.

By 2008, an online exhibit was designed and made the project content more widely available. In 2020, the North Carolina Collection at Durham County Library was approached by Savas Labs about re-designing the online exhibit. Additional content was added to reflect the continuing movement for civil rights in Durham and the United States.

Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project Sponsors

  • Center for Documentary Studies

  • Duke University Libraries

  • Durham Business and Professional Chain

  • Durham County Library

  • The Herald-Sun

  • Historic Preservation Society of Durham

  • John Hope Franklin Institute for Interdisciplinary and International Studies

  • McKissick Collection, UNC-Chapel Hill

  • North Carolina Central University

  • North Carolina Museum of History

  • St. Joseph's A.M.E. Church

  • St. Joseph's Historic Foundation/Hayti Heritage Center

  • White Rock Baptist Church

  • Union Baptist Church

The Durham Civil Rights Heritage Project was made possible by grants from the Friends of the Durham County Library. Thanks, Friends!

Website Designed and Developed by Savas Labs

In 2020, Savas Labs worked with the team from the North Carolina Collection at Durham County Library to redesign and rebuild this exhibition website. The goal of this redesign was to make the site more accessible to users of various abilities, easier to use on various devices, and more engaging. Savas Labs donated their time and talent for this initiative as part of their Labs™ space.

Oral History Digitization Funded by the Durham Library Foundation

In the summer of 2020, the Durham Library Foundation approved funding to digitize the oral history recordings for the project. The original cassette tapes were sent to a local vendor for digitization, and then Savas Labs added the recordings to the website. The work concluded in August 2021. Thank you, Durham Library Foundation, for your continued support!

To Submit a Photograph or Obtain a Copy of a Photograph

To inquire about obtaining a copy of a photograph, or to contribute content to the collection, contact the North Carolina Collection at or (919) 560-0171.