An exhibit examining the roots of housing inequality in Durham is now available online.

Uneven Ground is a project of Bull City 150, a collaboration between the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity and the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. Created ahead of Durham’s sesquicentennial next year, the exhibit looks at the role white privilege in Durham’s formation, starting with its foundation on stolen land using the labor of stolen people.

“A particular focus of BC150’s public education is to grapple with inequality as a relationship, in which some groups are structurally advantaged over time, and others disadvantaged,” the exhibit website reads. “Bull City 150 highlights the historic role and evolution of white privilege, which is often left in the background of historical narratives. We also feature acts of individual and collective resistance by those most negatively impacted by structural inequality- namely working class people and people of color.”

The exhibit covers Jim Crow, segregation and urban renewal – a federal program that in Durham led to the destruction of thousands of homes and businesses in neighborhoods of color – describing how land-owning patterns, low wages, and racism led to inequities in Durham’s housing landscape. It also highlights the success of the Hayti neighborhood prior to urban renewal, black-owned businesses and the work of housing organizers who fought for tenant rights.

The physical exhibit has traveled to several locations in Durham on display. The online version is similarly chock-full of historic maps, archival material, photos from Durham’s past and stories from residents.

One map illustrates the major land-owning families in the 1880s (the names will be familiar), another shows the proximity of incinerators and factories to majority-black neighborhoods in 1937. Photos capture life in Durham’s mill villages, the lack of city investment in black neighborhoods as late as the 1960s, and protests against displacement and poor housing conditions. 

The exhibit is also on display at the History Department at Duke University throughout the 2018-2019 school year.