What Happened To This Once-Thriving Black Town?

Black civilian conservation corps workers
Leslie Taylor-Grover
September 16, 2020

Hayti, North Carolina was no ordinary place. Founded after the Civil War, racist tobacco farm owners used it at first to house their Black workers. But soon it became something MUCH more than that.

As Black workers poured into the community, they began to connect. First came a church, then a school, then some restaurants and stores. Other businesses began to pop up. Finally came a completely Black-owned bank! Hayti had become a fully self-sustained Black economy. 

But trouble was ahead.

As the town grew, other Black people began to visit Hayti as a respite from white hatred. Many were travelers seeking a place where being Black was safe and normal. 

However, the nearby white town was growing, too – and it wanted Hayti’s land and space for itself.

The white city claimed the Hayti’s space was perfect for “urban renewal.” 

Hayti’s residents protested this shady move, and the city promised to compensate the Black families and businesses that would be displaced by a new expressway and other developments. Were these promises kept?

Sadly, no. Hayti was destroyed and over 4,000 families were displaced, along with businesses. 

Though there is only one historic building left, the residents continue to fight because they know one thing: Black independence is possible. When we’re just left alone, we thrive in our own spaces, with our own economies!

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