808 Fayetteville - W.G. Pearson House

35.98543, -78.898

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808 Fayetteville St., 1922. (Courtesy Duke Rare Book and Manuscript Collection. Scanned by Digital Durham.)

William Gaston Pearson was born in 1859 - I have little information about his early life, although his parents had been enslaved - originally in Florida. William and his mother came to Durham at some point. Per Jean Anderson, Julian Carr heard William give "a stump speech" and was impressed enough by his oratory to offer to pay the 24 year old's tuition to Shaw University in Raleigh. WG Pearson won multiple awards while at Shaw.

Pearson was intimately involved in the growth of Hayti and in advocacy for the African-American community. In addition to founding the Southern Fidelity Mutual Insurance Co. and the Bankers Fire Insurance Co, Pearson became the principal of the first African-American Graded School (Whitted) and then Hillside High School. (A position he held for 30 years.) (He also had a few unsuccessful enterprises - the People's Savings and Loan (1915) and the Fraternal Bank and Trust Co.)

Pearson died in 1947. The house appears to have been divided into apartments thereafter.

808 Fayetteville, 1965. (Courtesy Durham County Library / North Carolina Collection)

The house had been torn down by 1968.

Site of 808 Fayetteville, 10.05.08

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35.985430 -78.898000


I am Shonae, an 8 year old student who attends WG Pearson. I am writing my black history report on this wonderful man. We go to a school named after him, yet we know so little. I can't believe no one left a comment. I think he did a great work! (with help, this is my comment)

Hi Shonae, please post your report here when you finish it. I would like to learn more about Mr. Pearson. Please tell us about the great work he did, and what you have learned.

I went to W.G. Pearson when I was kid and like Shonae, knew nothing about the rich history the person this school was named after. Please share your report Shonae, I'm interested. Thanks!!!

I am a decendent of William Gaston Pearson. My grandmother is his neice. I just wanted to make one correction on your biography of him. WG Pearson was not a slave in Florida. He was a slave in North Carolina. And his parents were married and lived in North Carolina as well. If you want more information on him please let me know.

I also want to say that I really appreciate your pictures of old Durham. My grandmother moved to California in her 20's and I have never been there, but looking at your pictures really does bring her stories to life.


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