Ten years ago, we premiered Durham: A Self-Portrait to great community response. The film opens with the “secret game,” a basketball match-up played one Sunday morning in 1944 between the all-black N.C. Central varsity team and an all-white team from the Duke University Navy medical school. We documented the rise of this unique Southern city that nurtured a dynamic industrial economy and a thriving “Black Wall Street.”
In the later decades of the 20th century, Durham experienced a painful period of decline, as its core industries—tobacco and textiles—moved production elsewhere. Its once lively downtown became a ghost town for years, with its shopping streets emptied by new malls. But Durham today, rising back from the “Great Recession” of 2008, has experienced extraordinary growth and revitalization in IT startups, medicine, and a nationally recognized foodie scene. But as in most American cities, we are tested by gentrification and persistent poverty.
Ten Years After
In recognition of the city’s 150th Anniversary in 2019, we are updating our film, featuring a new Back to the Future epilogue that speaks to today’s Durham. Are we still a “Tale of Two Cities”? Does Durham’s unique history still matter? We’ll explore the questions inherent in Durham’s evolution through an array of self-portraits with diverse voices from across the community.