The Durham Knitting Mill, located at 702-704 Fayetteville St had its place in history cemented by visits and commentary from 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 Streets.
The operation 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..." (find the scanned full text at Digital Durham)
W.E.B. DuBois visited the mill in 1913; his description:
"...we went to the hosiery mill and the planing mill. The hosiery mill was to me of singular interest. Three years ago I met the manager, C.C. Amey. He was then teaching school, but he had much unsatisfied mechanical genius. The white hosiery mills in Durham were succeeding and one of them employed colored hands. Amey asked for permission here to learn to manage the intricate machines, but was refused. Finally, however, the manufacturers of the machines told him that they would teach him if he came to Philadelphia. He went and learned. A company was formed and thirteen knitting and ribbing machines at 70 dollars apiece were installed, with a capacity of sixty dozen men's socks a day. At present the sales are rapid and satisfactory, and already machines are ordered to double the present output; a dyeing department and factory building are planned for the near future." (see the full scanned version at Digital Durham)
As W.E.B. DuBois mentions, Charles C. Amey was manager of the mill, and lived nearby at 514 Elm Street. Although Anderson states that the mill closed in 1916, by 1915, the city directories no longer list the mill, and Mr. Amey is noted to be employed as a teller at the North Carolina Mutual company. Anderson notes the mill's demise resulted from a slump in textile production due to World War I.
Soon thereafter, 704 Fayetteville St. became home to the Royal Knights of King David.
The R.K.K.D was a fraternal-beneficial organization which had been purchased by John Merrick, John Wright, WA Day, JD Morgan, and TJ Jones in 1883 from a "Reverend Morrison of Georgia." This organization, like many contemporaneous fraternal organizations, provided insurance by assessing members dues - typically burial insurance.
Merrick was "Supreme Grand Treasurer" of the organization, and it's speculated that RKKD incubated the framework for the North Carolina Mutual Company, established in 1898. When the Mutual offices were established on West Parrish St., RKKD offices were located on the second floor.
The RKKD did not wither with the establishment of NC Mutual, however. It continued to expand its presence in the southeast, and by 1918 the organization had 21,000 members, was bringing in $8,000 a month, and owned $22,000 in bonds/securities, and $40,000 in property.
In 1922, "Milestones Along the Color Line" described the organization thusly:
"The Royal Knights of King David bears the distinction of being the foremost organization of its kind in America. It is perhaps the only legal reserve fraternity operated by Negroes. For thirty-nine years it has operated successfully, unhampered by storms of financial depression and today it is stronger than ever. This fraternity is a distinct achievement of Negro business organization and a valuable asset to the race."
W.G. Pearson was secretary and manager of the RKKD ("Supreme Grand Scribe"), compiling a book of organizational ritual that was printed in 1920. As a kind of cooperative financial institution, the Royal Knights were hit hard by the depression. There appear to have been some efforts to revive the group after a 1934 bankruptcy, but they never regained earlier prominence and relinquished this building around that time. By 1938, 700 housed the White Way Sport Shop, and 702 housed a branch of Scott and Roberts Dry Cleaners. By 1941, White Way had become the Central Community Sport Shop.
It appears that sometime in the 1950s, the top floor of the building was removed. In 1957, the building became home to Fuller Products Cosmetics (at 700) and the Garrett-Parker drugstore. I assume that this drugstore was connected with York Garrett's Biltmore drugstore.
This building was torn down prior to 1968. Since the early 1980s it has been the site of a medical office complex.
Find this spot on a Google Map.
Submitted by carphone (not verified) on Thu, 10/23/2008 - 2:55am
these fayetteville posts are so incredibly sad. i love this site but it gets so depressing i sometimes must take a break. i am back but goodness, the disrespect for a beautiful neighborhood for a soulless building makes me sick.
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