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Planting Trees and the Racial History of Durham Housing

Robert Korstad explores how Durham's arboreal past underscores inequality in the city

Durham is a midsize Southern city on the rise. Located in one of the fastest growing regions of the country, Durham is staking out its place as a hotspot in the new economy. But the city has a legacy of inequality. Take housing. Many neighborhoods had "covenants" requiring that excluded non-whites from buying homes. Not only were non-Caucasians not allowed, they couldn't spend the night unless they were a household servant.

Trees raise property values. City maps reveal trees were planted in the city in a racist manner. Planting was coordinated by the all-white garden club, and no trees were planted in Black communities.

A new research project is focusing on this type of inequality. Coordinated by Professor Bob Korstad, the project is called Bull City 150: Reckoning with Durham's Past to Build a More Equitable Future. The project culminates in 2019, Durham's 150th birthday.

Bull City 150 is a civic education initiative of the Sanford School of Public Policy and the Samuel DuBois Cook Center on Social Equity.

Music: “The Envelope,” “Celestial Navigation,” and “Thannoi” by Blue Dot Sessions/Creative Commons