Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Author Exposes the Real "Durham County Secrets"

Author Exposes the Real "Durham County Secrets"

Paul Scott

A few months ago, the trailers for ION network's new cable series, "Durham County Secrets" had residents scrambling to make sure that the closets holding their skeletons were securely locked. To the relief of many, the series had nothing to do with Durham NC.

However, in his new book, "Liberalism, Black Power and the Making of American Politics 1965-1980," Vanderbilt University professor, Dr. Devin Fergus, uncovers some secrets that are sure to have Durham folks talking.

In the book, Fergus writes about the Black Power Movement in North Carolina and how it was co-opted by Liberalism. Interestingly enough, he devotes the first two chapters to "the Bull City."

In a recent interview with No Warning Shots, Fergus, a New Jersey native, said that he is no stranger to the Tar Heel State having spent his summers down south. Durham was of special interest to him because of the flattering words that Dr. WEB Du Bois gave the black entrepreneurial spirit of the city in the early 20th century and because of the late Minnesota senator, Paul Wellstone's 1969 thesis, "Why They Believe in Violence" which predicted that "Durham was on the precipice of race war."

Fergus also said that one thing that grabbed his attention about Durham was former black power activist, Howard Fuller.

Although, Durham is often praised as being "Black Wall Street" and a haven for the black middle class, the Black Power Movement, which was popular with less affluent members of the city's African American community, is rarely mentioned in books. Even though, E. Franklin Frazier writes in his classic work, "Black Bourgeoisie," that "the capital of the black bourgeoisie was Durham NC," few books mention the city as a hotbed of black militancy.

This is the segment of the population that Fuller set out to represent.

The book chronicles Fuller's struggle with Durham's black middle class, some of whom saw his militancy as a threat to their social and economic stability.

Although some in Durham have, continuously, argued for Afrocentric education for black children, Fuller started Malcolm X Liberation University as early as March of 1969. By the fall of 1970, based, partially, on the efforts of some members of Durham's middle class, MXLU was forced to seek greener pastures in Greensboro, NC.

Later in the book, Fergus moves his focus to other areas of North Carolina, writing about black empowerment projects from Winston Salem's chapter of the Black Panther Party to the mobilization around the Joan Little case and Warren County's Soul City.

While much of the focus of his book is on the black middle class's relationship with black power, he also writes of white liberalism and its attempt to push black militancy into the more socially acceptable political arena.

While some may consider "Liberalism, Black Power and the Making of American Politics" controversial, for a black Hip Hop generation searching for answers to what happened to the "black pride" about which their parents would brag, Fergus's book is a secret that now must be yelled from rooftops.

Dr. Devin Fergus is scheduled to come to the Triangle on a lecture tour the weekend of October 23rd. For more information contact

***On Sunday October 25th he is scheduled to appear at Hayti Heritage Center in Durham and on Monday November 2 at UNC.

Paul Scott is a self-syndicated columnist and author of the blog, No Warning Shots He can be reached at (919) 451-8283 or