North Carolina Education - Durham County

Year County Established

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Durham County


Chartered in 1909 as a private institution, the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua was founded and opened in 1910 under the leadership of Dr. James E. Shepard, who would serve as president of the school until 1947. The institution’s mission was to develop in young black men and women character and sound academic training. Initially, financial support came only from private donations and student fees. The lack of funding led to the school being sold and reorganized, becoming the National Training School in 1915. Mrs. Russell Sage, a New York philanthropist, made generous contributions to the school around that time.

In 1923, the school became publicly supported. The General Assembly of North Carolina provided for the purchase and maintenance of what became known that same year as Durham State Normal School. Two years later, the General Assembly renamed the school the North Carolina College for Negroes (NCC), refocusing the program on liberal arts education and preparation of graduate students in becoming teachers and principals. Hence, NCC became the first state supported liberal arts college for African American students in the nation.

In 1929, with the support of Governor Angus W. McLean, the school graduated its first four-year class. Appropriations from the state were complemented by generous gifts from Benjamin N. Duke, a Durham philanthropist and industrialist, and by donations from the citizens of Durham. In 1939, NCC established a graduate work program in liberal arts and the professions. The school of law was instituted in 1940 and the school of library science opened the following year. As a result of increased growth and expansion, the legislature changed the school’s name to North Carolina College at Durham in 1947. The college became part of the University of North Carolina system as North Carolina Central University on July 1, 1969.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.

Duke University began as a small, rural school in Randolph County. First known as Brown’s Schoolhouse, the school grew and in 1838 was re-organized by local families as Union Institute under principal Brantley York. The institute received its charter in 1841 and was again re-organized in 1851 as a normal school to train teachers and, the following year, the General Assembly authorized the institution to grant degrees. In 1859, the name of the school was changed to Trinity College after the Methodist Church became involved in operating the school. It continued to prosper with the first masters degree awarded in 1877 and the first female graduates receiving degrees the following year. In 1887, John Crowell became president and under his guidance the school was transformed from a rural college to an urban campus in the town of Durham. Crowell persuaded the trustees that a move to an urban setting would encourage greater enrollment. To promote the move, land in Durham was donated by Julian S. Carr and Washington Duke. The latter initiated the first of a series of donations, laying the groundwork for future collaboration between his family and the institution.

Two years after the move to Durham in 1892, John Kilgo became president. Kilgo nurtured Washington Duke’s affinity for the school and his desire to fund the needs of the urban campus. Over the next few years, Duke contributed heavily to the school. The school emerged as one of the leading liberal arts colleges in the south, priding itself on allowing open debate and discussion on sensitive topics, inviting speakers such as Booker T. Washington to campus and supporting controversial professors. By 1924, the trustees had decided to transform the college into a university. William Few, who became president of Trinity College in 1910, facilitated the change from a college into a complex research university, helped by the financial support of the Duke family. In 1924, James B. Duke established the Duke Endowment to benefit the university. During the creation of the endowment and restructuring of the school, it was decided that Trinity College should be re-named Duke University in honor of Washington Duke. Quickly following on its new name and financial stability, the new university began a building campaign, laying the first cornerstone of its Gothic style campus in 1928. The first buildings were occupied in 1930 and the chapel was first used for baccalaureate services in 1932.

As Trinity College grew, it developed its own identity, using Yale blue as its color, honoring a past president’s alma mater. The school’s “Blue Devil” mascot was chosen by the school newspaper in 1922 as an homage to a regiment of French troops during World War I. The mascot and school colors are still maintained by the University.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.


The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics (NCSSM) was the nation’s first state-supported, residential high school for students with talents and interests in those fields. The school was a favorite project of Governor James B. Hunt Jr. during his first term in office. Since its establishment in 1980, similar schools have been started in Louisiana, Illinois, Texas, Indiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. A total of 550 eleventh and twelfth grade students from across North Carolina are enrolled each year. The cost to the state per student is about three times the cost for a typical high school student. The school has a staff of fifty-eight, thirty-seven percent of whom have doctorates. The school is an affiliate of the University of North Carolina. Complaints were voiced during the debate over the school’s creation that it would skim the best students from the state’s schools. In recent years the institution has sought to serve those schools with in-service training for teachers and by sponsoring research and development for the classroom.

Several North Carolina cities sought the school. Durham offered the winning bid, that being the abandoned twenty-seven acre campus of Watts Hospital. Founded in 1895, the hospital, located initially at the corner of Main and Buchanan Streets, was a gift to the people of Durham from tobacco magnate George Washington Watts. The hospital was state of the art for its day, pioneering work in radiology, bacteriology, and nurses training. In 1909, Watts financed the present Spanish Mission style campus at a cost of a million dollars, with half of the money spent on buildings and half on an endowment. Watts Hospital provided care to all white citizens regardless of their ability to pay. (Lincoln Hospital was established in 1921 to serve the black population.) North Carolina Blue Cross and Blue Shield evolved out of a hospital care association established at Watts in 1929. By the 1960s, Watts Hospital was overcrowded and aging. Both Watts and Lincoln hospitals closed upon the opening of Durham County General Hospital in 1976.

The above write-up (with edits) was provided by the North Carolina Highway Marker program. Click Here to read and to view their sources.


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