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People You Should Know

Our goal is to use creative expression to explore the historic entrepreneurial spirit that made Hayti a model for other African-American communities around the country. We believe that the information contained in our documentary will be a vital educational resource. We also believe that it is important to honor those who contributed so earnestly to building or preserving the historic legacy of Durham and Hayti. These are some of the people you should know.



Moore and merrick

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. Much of Hayti’s rise can be attributed to the entrepreneurial spirit of three prominent Black businessmen. In 1898 Durham Barber, John Merrick, and Dr. Aaron Moore, pooled resources with five other local black businessmen, and formed what would eventually become North Carolina Mutual Insurance Company, the richest and most successful Black-owned business in the nation, with an initial investment of a few hundred dollars.



ccspauldingAfter they appointed Charles Clinton “CC” Spaulding as general manager, the company began to grow. Spaulding’s polish and strategic planning netted great rewards and respect from the white community. Eventually, it became the largest black insurance company in the world. The more the company expanded, the more prosperous the community became. Under Spaulding’s leadership, the company even survived the depression. All three men believed that the path to success for Blacks was economic power and self-reliance. The company still encourages it today, by example. NC Mutual was eventually able to subsidize other businesses, a bank, a real estate company, the Durham Textile Mill, black newspapers, churches, a hospital, the black library, and a baseball team. Parrish Street in downtown Durham, where NC Mutual was located, came to be known as the “Black Wall Street” and Durham, the “Black Capitol” of the South.



john_hope_franklinEminent historian and scholar John Hope Franklin, championed race relations in America for years. He believed and taught that African-American history and the history of America were one in the same. His writings about the racism and the challenges of achieving racial parity in America are infamous. He was an advisor on President Clinton’s committee on race

In 1976, The National Endowment for the Humanities selected Franklin for the Jefferson Lecture, the government’s highest honor for achievement in the humanities. His book “Racial Equality in America” was based on his three-part lecture. In 1983, he was named the James B. Duke Professor of History at Duke. He also taught legal history at the Duke law school for seven years. John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies and the Franklin Humanities Institute resulted from John Hope Franklin’s close relationship with Duke University. “John Hope Franklin lived for nearly a century and helped define that century,” Duke President Richard Brodhead said in a statement. “A towering historian, he led the recognition that African-American history and American history are one. With his grasp of the past, he spent a lifetime building a future of inclusiveness, fairness and equality. Duke has lost a great citizen and a great friend”.



james duke

Although they were very poor after the Civil War, the Duke family, Washington Duke and his boys James Buchanan, Benjamin, and Brodie, would become very rich and famous from processing tobacco and manufacturing cigarettes. Many of the factory’s work force was built with Black laborers, many of them former slaves from nearby plantations. James “Buchanan “Buck” Duke became well-known as a philantropist. In December 1924 James Buchanan “Buck” Duke created the Duke Endowment of $40 million, the income from which would be distributed annually to specified educational, religious, and medical institutions—black and white—in North and South Carolina. One organization that benefitted was Durham’s Lincoln Hospital in the African-American community of Hayti.




Photos of R. Kelly Bryant, Jr. receiving awards is a frequent occurrence. He is one of our community leaders, a collector of documentary resources and a public historian. He is the great-grandson of Margaret (Maggie) Ruffin Faucette, founder of White Rock in 1866; and he served as Trustee from 1945-2000. He knows African American economic development in Durham. He came to the Bull City in 1941 as an accountant at Mutual Savings and Loan Association (now Mutual Community Savings Bank). In 1944, he was appointed Chief Clerk, Ordinary Department, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (Home Office) and was Assistant Secretary, Manager, and Conservation Department from 1965 until his retirement in 1981. Bryant is a quiet, unassuming gentleman who continues to contribute greatly and tirelessly to this community. He is a living legend.

Photo: Preservation Durham President Ellen Dagenhart presents the Bartlett Durham Award to R. Kelly Bryant.



President & CEO

St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation/The Hayti Heritage Center

dianne pledgerDianne Pledger has over 20 years of experience as marketing and public relations professional with emphasis on the arts. She has extensive experience in project development and implementation, local, regional and national collaboration, and event management and fundraising, including the nationally recognized Bull Durham Blues Festival. Having worked as a consultant over the last 7 year, she has conducted board development, strategic planning sessions, capital campaign/fundraising analysis, event and special promotions.

Dianne Pledger is the President & CEO of the St. Joseph’s Historic Foundation, Inc./Hayti Heritage Center in Durham, North Carolina, where she is responsible for overall development and implementation of strategic planning, programming and institutional advancement. In 2001 she completed a four- year capital campaign raising $3.5 million dollars to open the 450-seat, St. Joseph’s Performance Hall in the historic Hayti District of Durham. Mrs. Pledger holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in Journalism/Communications from North Carolina Central University.

Dianne sits on the board of The Blues Foundation, Memphis, Tenn., The National Performance Network, New Orleans, LA, The Agape Foundation (a community development corporation), Durham Cultural Master Plan Steering Committee, Arts North Carolina, and St. Paul AME Church Steward Board. She has participated on several arts panels for the Southern Arts Federation, Atlanta, Ga., State of Louisiana Arts Council, North Carolina Arts Council, The Arts and Science Council of Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, NC, and Durham Arts Council.



The Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, was organized in 1935 by C.C. Spaulding and Dr. James E. Shepard, has been cited nationally for its role in the sit-in movements of the 1950s-60’s. The committee also has used its voting strength to pursue social and economic rights for African-Americans and other ethnic groups.


A native of Durham and a graduate of the Durham Public Schools System, Dr. Jones received her B.A. and M.A. degrees in history from NCCU, and was the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has served as a member on the Durham Public School Board for seven years. In 2005, Dr. Beverly Washington Jones, former dean of University College at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), was appointed as provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at North Carolina Central University (NCCU).

Dr. Jones played a leading role in implementing closing the achievement gap programs that place institutions of higher education at the forefront of marshalling their resources in collaborative efforts with state/local government, the faith communities, parents, students, Leader’s Education Association, and corporations. From 1997-1999, she directed Saturday Academy, a program for third, fourth, and fifth graders in six (6) Durham Public Schools.

In 2002, with $2.25 million from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Durham Housing Authority’s Hope VI program and the Verizon Foundation, Dr. Jones increased Saturday Academy’s enrollment from 175 to 400 students and expanded the number of public schools served from 6 to 12. She has published five books and more than 20 articles on various subjects, from the stories of Durham’s historic Hayti district to the advancement and consequence of American politics.




Greenfire Development

carl webb

Carl Webb has been involved in several of the largest real estate development projects in Durham in the past 10 years. A 25-year veteran of the advertising and marketing communications industry, he has developed relationships and delivered powerful communications programs for a portfolio of real estate clients.

A native of Durham, he has held leadership positions in various community organizations such as Men of Vision, Downtown Durham, Inc. Urban Ministries, Research Triangle Regional Partnership, and the Durham Roundtable.He also serves on Wachovia’s regional board of advisors.

Mr. Webb is a graduate of the Art Institute of Atlanta and attended NC Central University. He graduated from Leadership Triangle and Leadership North Carolina, as well as the minority business executive program at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.




Mr. Cherry was involved in many civic, educational, and church organizations. In addition, he worked in media entertainment, marketing, video and film production and promotions. Notably, he produced a documentary for BET (Black Entertainment Television) on the life of the Honorable Louis Farrakhan. He has also produced a documentary on gospel great Kirk Franklin . He was the founder of the National Association of Black Promoters. Mr. Cherry did national marketing and publicity consulting for Columbia Pictures, Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox Films, United Artists Films, and Bill Cosby Productions to name a few. In an interview on June 3, 2007, Al Sharpton said, “He had the ability to make people stars and not get in their spotlights. He was a master builder,” Reverend Al Sharpton speaking on Bill Cherry’s accomplishments as a promoter. “I’ve known Mr. Cherry since I was 13-years-old. He has helped me literally all my life. “Bill”believed in people and he believed in the cause of the African-Americans, said Sharpton. “Bill Cherry was a renowned man, an excellent promoter who used ‘show business’ to organize social justice. He realized the cause was more important than the money.” He died Thursday, May 24, at his home in Durham.





Mayor Bell was first elected mayor of Durham, NC in 2001. He was re-elected in 2003, 2005 and 2007. His stated goal from the beginning has been to build a better Durham. Since his tenure the city has been recognized consistently nationally as one of the best places to live and find the greatest opportunity for starting and growing a business. Mayor Bell’s impressive career path includes duty as a former 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, various corporate leadership achievements and over 26 successful years at the county government level.



Anna Pauline (Pauli) Murray was born in Baltimore on 20th November, 1910. Her mother, Agnes Murray died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1914. Her father, William Murray, was a graduate of Howard University and taught in a local high school. He suffered from the long-term effects of typhoid fever and eventually was confined to Crownsville State Hospital where he was murdered by a guard in 1923. 

Pauli went to live with her aunt, Pauline Fitzgerald, an elementary school teacher and her grandparents Robert and Cornelia Fitzgerald in Durham, North Carolina.

After graduating from Hillside High School in 1926 with a certificate of distinction, she moved to New York City. Murray attended Hunter College and financed her studies with various jobs. However, after the Wall Street Crash, unable to find work, Murray was forced to abandon her studies. 
In the 1930s Murray worked for the Works Projects Administration (WPA) and as a teacher in the New York City Remedial Reading Project. She also had articles and poems published in various magazines. This included her novel, Angel of the Desert, that was serialized in the Carolina Times.  To learn more about Pauli Murray or donate to The Pauli Murray Project, visit:

Screenings, Events, Shoot Schedule
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OUR MISSION is to document and explore the Black Experience from a local, regional, national and global perspective through education, the arts and humanities.

Our ultimate goal is to empower future generations with a spirit of entrepreneurship,community building and
cultural significance.