Vintage News Story on Black Firefighters – Carolina Times, 1952

Here’s an interesting slice of social history, beginning with provocative headline “Negro Firemen Acquit Themselves Well In Few Dixie Cities; Durham Hasn’t Warmed Up To Idea.”

It was found via North Carolina Newspapers, a neat site with access to hundreds of digitized newspapers from around the state. Below is the front page of Durham’s Carolina Times from January 5, 1952. The story’s about black firefighters in southern cities, and is based on a prior article in a periodical named New South.

The context of the article is the city of Durham’s efforts at the time to add African-Americans to their firefighting force. Eight were hired in October 1958 and staffed a new Station 4 that was opened at Fayetteville and Pekoe streets. It was located in Durham’s historic Hayti community, a neighborhood founded as a independent black community shortly after the Civil War. (The earlier Station 4 was demolished during construction of the Durham Freeway. Read about that.)

There are numerous digitized Carolina Times articles from the 1950s, chronicling efforts in Durham to add black career firefighters. (The city was served by the “colored members” of the volunteer Excelsior Hook and Ladder Company beginning in the mid-1880s.)

The first proposal for career members was floated as early as 1949, noted a Durham Morning Herald story on July 22 of that year. (See source.) In North Carolina’s cities, black firefighters were first hired in Winston-Salem in 1951, Durham in 1958, Greensboro in 1961, and Raleigh in 1963. (See archived blog posting.)

Read this article via NC newspapers. Then commence searching the site for others. Lots of great reading, both about Durham and other cities and towns and their fire department histories.

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