Black Durham Residents' Fight to Regain their Power through Rejecting the Trickery of the Blue Devil Public Deposited

Downloadable Content

Download PDF
Last Modified
  • March 21, 2019
  • Davis, Cassandra Richards
    • Affiliation: School of Education
  • In the late 19th century, a group of Black newly freedmen purchased a plot of land in Durham, North Carolina that would be later known as the Hayti District. Influential Black leaders identified this community as the nation's Black Mecca and soon became the home of thousands of Black residents and 300 Black owned-businesses (Brown, 2008). Unfortunately, in the 1950s, the `Black Mecca' experienced a sudden transformation when federal and state governments financed initiatives that ironically destroyed the Black community. In essence, Durham Blacks were victims of the mythological creature, the Blue Devil; a spirit that was known to possess their ancestors hundreds of years earlier. From the first slave ship exiting the African coast, to the last, there were many reports of Africans who caught the Blue Devil in route to the New World. During the Atlanta slave trade, captains, ship crewmembers and missionaries characterized the Blue Devil as a mythological creature that forced African slaves into a depressed state and thus persuaded them to commit suicide. Unfortunately, it took the spoken words from former slaves to uncover that the Blue Devil was, in reality, the reaction to being ripped away from their homeland and traveling to an uncertain future. The purpose of this study is to present the argument that over a hundred years later there is a re-emergence of the essence of the Blue Devil in Durham's Black community due, in part, to urban renewal and school desegregation. Using qualitative methods, the study presented the voices of Black working and elite/middle class Durham residents, to understand to what extent they interpret the reasons behind the destruction of the Hayti District as another reemergence of the Blue Devil. This study also examines the participant's perceptions on present and future standings of Durham's Black youth. The study also revealed how participants viewed school desegregation and Hayti's urban renewal project differently based on their social class. In contrast, both working and elite/middle class participants articulated the downfall of the Hayti District and school desegregation as another reemergence of the mythological creature, the Blue Devil. In addition to, all participants agreed that Durham's Black youth were the current victims of the Blue Devil. However, when asked how these students could escape the mythological creature, it was only the participants from the elite class who could articulate a process. Implications suggest that individuals from different social classes may have varied perspectives. In relation to pedagogy, these multiple perspectives need to be taken into account when teaching students from an array of social class backgrounds. In order equally support students; educators will need to implement elements of critical reality pedagogy.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Noblit, George W.
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

This work has no parents.