It all started from Durham in North Carolina, during a period in history where blacks were subject to disenfranchisement. A time when open violation of the rights of people because of their skin colour was the order of the day, some segments of the black population residing in Durham were actively making conscious efforts at establishing businesses which posed a major threat to white supremacy.
The history of black owned business establishments in North Carolina cannot not be adequately discussed without singling out the efforts of two notable African American men known as Charles Spaulding and John Merrick. These two were more or less the propelling forces behind large scale commerce and industry. They spearheaded the initiatives and provided the leadership for what was known as the Black Wall street.
Black Wall Street used to be a four block district on Parrish Street named after that of New York City. Although the name didn’t ring a bell until the late fifties, it found its ground as an economic strong hold for Afro Americans around the late 1800s. Inasmuch as the initiative was capable of effectively enriching the African American populace, Black wall street didn’t evenly distribute the new found wealth within Durham’s black community neither did it foster the widespread outcry for desegregation of blacks.
Black Wall Street was virtually the center point of African American businesses as well as financial services in Durham, North Carolina during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Firmly located on Parrish street, it was a convergence point for Mechanics and Farmers Bank as well as North Carolina Mutual.
The Civil war had just ended and most inhabitants from the southern region were involved in rebuilding infrastructures that got damaged during the war. There was racial tension, and this was because of the recent emancipation of all black slaves. There was also this widespread belief that blacks posed a potential threat to the whites as far as the society and the economy was concerned. But with the emergence of John Merrick, people began to see black business men in a totally new light. Statistical estimates from government officials revealed that about 85% of blacks were living beneath the poverty line during the 1800s placing them automatically below in the social strata.
However, Merrick was able to reach prominence due to his awesome relationship with Washington Duke. Merrick who was originally a Barber by profession was able to gain enough money through income and loans to open North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance. This was later expanded with the efforts of Charles Spaulding
Haven served as the president of North Carolina Mutual, Spaulding enjoyed the reputation as America’s leading black businessman. Later in the 1900s, when Spaulding was general manager, North Carolina Mutual was at the brink of an epic fail. By 1910 the company was named the largest negro business.
Spaulding alongside John Merrick and Aaron Moore who happens to be Spaulding’s uncle, were announced in the Afro Americans community as the “Triumvirate”, the embodiment of Booker T. Washington’s “black captains of industry. By focusing their energy towards creating employment opportunities for the Afro Americans of North Carolina, these men were able to kick off the economic development of North Carolina.