Durham Life Insurance Company honors “Black Wall Street”


Durham Life Insurance Company Honors “Black Wall Street”

“Black Wall Street” was once the heartbeat of Durham.

The NC Mutual Building in Durham. (Staff photo by Ganzy)

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance is the largest black-owned insurance company in the U.S.. (Staff photo by Melquan Ganzy)

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance is the largest black-owned insurance company in the U.S.

Bordered by Parrish Street, the area was dominated by influential businesses such as N.C. Mutual Life, the nation’s oldest black-owned insurance company.

“On April 1, 1898, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, the nation’s largest black-owned insurance company and managed financial institution was founded,” said Kimberly Moore, Director of Marketing of N.C Mutual Life. “The founders were seven men from the Durham community including school principals, lawyers, and teachers.”

The founders included John Merrick, Aaron Moore and five others who were supported by James E. Shepard, the founder of N.C. Central University.

Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois and other leaders visited Black Wall Street to celebrate the area’s success.

“The black-owned businesses which were once an inspiration for generations of African Americans have been replaced,” said Paul Scott, a minister who has lived in Durham for more than a decade.

It wasn’t easy.

Under “Jim Crow” laws, there was much racism in North Carolina.

But that did not stop black business owners.

When the Durham Freeway was built in the 1960s, it cut through Alston Street and other roads, destroying “Black Wall Street.”

“Today, Parrish Street, in the heart of the former black business district, is lined with tombstones in the form of markers memorializing black Durham’s glorious past,” said Scott.

NC Mutual Life survived the destruction of Black Wall Street, and has expanded beyond offering life insurance to offer auto, home and business insurance.

“We were able to diversify our product and service offerings, and most importantly have agents in other parts of the country,” said Moore.

The company has faced challenges since its establishment, but remains as a testament to the impact and legacy of Black Wall Street.