Mill interior, 1911. Durham, NC
(Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Scanned by Digital Durham)
The Durham Textile Mill, located at 702-704 Fayetteville St had its place in history cemented by visits and commentary by both Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois.
After Julian Carr broke the taboo against employment of African-Americans as machine operators at Durham Hosiery Mill No. 2 in 1903, John Merrick was determined to show that similar success could be achieved with not only African-American mill workers, but African-American ownership as well.
By 1911, Merrick, along with C.C. Spaulding and Dr. Aaron Moore, established the Durham Knitting Mill (also called the Durham Textile Mill) at the southwest corner of South Elm and Fayetteville Sts.
The Durham Textile Mill is described by Booker T. Washington in 1911:
“I was ready to go home, but they wanted to show me one more successful Negro plant. This was the plant known as the Durham Textile Mill, the only hosiery mill in the world entirely owned and operated by Negroes. Regularly incorporated, they operate eighteen knitting machines of the latest pattern, working regularly twelve women and two men and turning out seventy-five dozen pairs of hose each day. The goods so far are standing the test in the market, being equal in every way to other hose of the same price. They are sold mainly by white salesmen, who travel mostly in North Carolina, New York, Indiana, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama…”