Braggtown Community Association
ROOTS OF BRAGGTOWN:
A COMMUNITY-LED MURAL
Z. Smith Reynolds Inclusive Public Art Initiative
The Roots of Braggtown community mural project celebrates and honors the story of formerly enslaved people from Stagville plantation now located in Durham North Carolina, who rebuilt their lives in the Braggtown community in Durham. The Braggtown Community Association (BCA) is leading a community engagement process along with residents and former residents of Braggtown to create a narrative of the transition of a community from slavery to liberation. With your help, that journey will be depicted in a mural located in the heart of Braggtown on the corner of Dearborn Drive and Martin Street. Residents and former residents are invited to share their memories of Braggtown in one of two ways, through oral histories shared during an oral interview, which can be set up by Georie Bryant at (919) 633-2747, and/or by using the Community Sharing Station that will soon be available on this site.
MURALS BUILD COMMUNITY
Durham needs community building now more than ever. Our city is changing rapidly as more and more newcomers discover what a fantastic city Durham is. Durham is famous for its industries like medicine, technology, and formerly tobacco, as well as its sports teams such as the Durham Bulls, Duke Blue Devils, and North Carolina Central University Eagles. But it is our communities that are at the heart of what makes Durham such a unique and welcoming place to call home. Communities are more than place. They are a web of interconnected lived experiences that we each share with our neighbors and grow to treasure. It is these relationships that create a sense of connectedness that we associate with community.
Murals are painted art on a wall or other structures that reflect what is significant to the members of a particular community. Because they are a form of community reflection on the past, murals are a form of community history and public history. Murals contain images of important people, buildings, and events the community wishes to commemorate. The Braggtown Community wants the input of residents, former residents, and even future residents for a mural it's planning to honor the residents of Braggtown.
Stagville Plantation and the Braggtown Community
Stagville and Braggtown
Before Durham was Durham, this region included one of the largest plantations in North Carolina. Known as Stagville today, this plantation covered 47 square miles of land. The Bennehan and Cameron families enslaved hundreds of Africans and African-Americans there from 1771 to 1865. After emancipation, freed families began to leave Stagville, and many people from Stagville settled in Durham, including in the Braggtown community. The connection between Stagville and Braggtown continued for many decades. Families in Braggtown often had relatives living out at Stagville. Farming families who stayed at Stagville came into Braggtown to purchase goods and supplies. The Cameron Grove Baptist Church, originally started at Stagville and moved to Braggtown, was a powerful connection between the two communities. In the 1940s, as many sharecroppers left Stagville, they moved to Braggtown, where family, church, and community tied them together. While Stagville is not part of the history of all Braggtown residents, the stories of Stagville families can represent the resilience, strength, and community bonds of all Braggtown families. Today, a portion of the plantation is Stagville State Historic Site, a public historic site to visit and learn about Stagville's stories.
1869: Durham founded. Stagville families are residents in Durham by 1869-1870. Cameron Grove Church founded at Stagville during slavery or soon afterwards, on the site of a cemetery used in slavery.
1880: First post office at Braggtown (John S. Carden postmaster).
1881: Durham County established and split off from Orange County.
1881: Durham County purchases land and builds a County Home/Poor House and prison farm off what is now Roxboro Rd. This was supposed to be a labor camp for convicted criminals, as well as residences for the “aged, indigent, or infirm,” supposedly separately.
1901: Cameron Grove Church moves from Stagville to Braggtown.
1902: First mention of black school at Braggtown in the Durham County School Board records.
1918: Black students assigned to the old white Bragtown school as the Bragtown Colored School. (Durham School Board minutes, May 1918).
1920s: General boom and expansion in Braggtown area.
1924: Braggtown black school meeting in a local church.
1925-1926: Braggtown black school rebuilt as a Rosenwald School.
1928: Braggtown school rebuilt into the modern building.
1938-1940: Last wave of families moved to Braggtown from Stagville, including from the houses at Horton Grove (former slave quarters). Stagville black school closes around this time.
1950s: Braggtown still separated from Durham by lack of paved roads between the two sections.
1957: Officially annexed into the city of Durham.
1950s/1960s: Modern I-85 put through gap between Braggtown and Durham, highway corridor develops and fills in.
1955: Braggtown and Mangum high schools merged into new Northern High. Braggtown School becomes elementary school. Last high school class to graduate from Braggtown was 1954.
1960: Lakeview School opens.
1961: Braggtown library established in January as part of the Durham Colored Library. Walter Williams is chair of community library committee.
1962: Braggtown library opens officially.
1969: Durham County Home closes officially.
1971: Oxford Manor built by the Durham Housing Authority.
1991: Braggtown School burns down in December.
2000-2003: Latinx businesses begin to fill in Roxboro road corridor