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First in Equity: Durham, North Carolina’s Historic Black Hayti

The name “Hayti” refers to Durham’s historically black community renowned for its robust black entrepreneurialism in the century following slavery.  At various times during this period, Durham became alternatively known as “the capital of the Black Middle Class,” “the City on the Hill for Blacks,” “Black Wall Street,” location of the most African-American millionaires per capita in the United States, and home to hundreds of black businesses, including the largest black-owned business in the world.  At 165 years of age, Durham’s Hayti – named for the island-nation of Haiti, the only country in the world ever created by a successful black slave revolt – is today the longest lasting and surviving of the Black Wall Streets in American history.

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Durham's Black Wallstreet

For 100 years (1867-1967) Durham’s Hayti and Black Wall Street beat the odds and survived nearly unmolested.  However, the unforgiving practice of Jim Crow policy and practice sought to redistribute the previously black segregated dollar.  So while the black community was still largely unwelcomed in white establishments their dollar was needed.  Thus, the growth in the white community was bolstered by social integration, the growth in the black community was thwarted by non-reciprocation.

Hayti plummeted into the same fate of many of America’s urban communities.  Disinvestment, poverty, and crime now floods streets that once flourished with black wealth and opportunity.

This problem is not unique to Durham, but it’s here on these historic grounds that big, bold, and innovative ideas can be researched, hatched, developed, incubated, nurtured, financed, and scaled to create a more racially equitable city, state, nation, and world.  Durham has the perfect mix of history, culture, modern resources, and will power to incite and lead the needed change for a more racially equitable society in an ever diversifying world.  Durham can present a model from which every urban area in America, and beyond, can learn from and adhere to.

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