Before the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 required white restaurants and businesses to open to Black patrons, Black residents served themselves, whether in Durham’s bustling Black business districts or in the Black-owned shops, restaurants, hotel, movie theatre, and pool hall on the west end of Rosemary and Franklin streets in Chapel Hill and along Merritt Mill in Carrboro.  In the mid-2000s, development took down much of what remained of what is still proudly known as The Midway. 

Learn more about Black entrepreneurship by searching for Black business, African American business, and Black owned business but don’t forget place names like Mason and Nick’s Grill or the Hollywood Theatre. Expand your search to include Durham, foodways, and labor.  You may be interested in the video essay, On and Off the Midway, and in the GIS Dynamic Map of Historic Black Businesses where you can see the historic economy at work—and respond with more information, materials, or questions. And don’t forget current businesses with long ties to Northside residents and traditions--like Mama Dip’s restaurant, Knotts and Jones Funeral Homes, and William “Smitty” Smith Masonry.


To learn more...

 Chelsea Alston - On her experiences as a youth leader and changes in the community

This interview provides background of interviewee’s connection to Chapel Hill. She shares her experiences as a youth leader in the community. She describes the changes of the community over time (gentrification). Her ideas of safe places for young POCs in Chapel Hill are provided. She talks about…

 Isabel Atwater - On growing up during World War II, Black businesses, and Civil Rights

Ms. Atwater speaks about life growing up in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro area during World War II. She shares her experiences with her husband, Roy Atwater and her education at the rural Merritt School and Orange County Training School. She was familiar with food rations throughout the time and had…

 Kathy Atwater - On food

Ms. Atwater gives an overview of food access in the community when she was growing up and how her family’s attitudes toward food have developed over the course of her life. Starting with a discussion of her mother’s kitchen and garden, she describes the role of food in her family and in the…

 Linda and Terry Carver - On integration, race in Chapel Hill, and medical access

The interview includes discussions about growing up in Chapel Hill during the Civil Rights era and highlights traits of early Chapel Hill life for African American families prior to integration. Both discuss the availability of medical facility access for blacks, how the community operated as a…

 Norma Bell - On her family, marriage, and relatives' businesses

In this interview, Norma Bell describes her wedding experience and her rebelliousness towards perceived unfairness. She describes her personality as being fair, assertive, and opinionated. She also talks about her 44-year marriage to Thomas Bell and their children and grandchildren. Norma’s mother,…
"We’re writing our own history, thank you!"

Ms. Esphur Foster

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