The History of Hayti and W.G. Pearson

For decades, Hayti was the social and cultural center of Durham’s black community and a model for self-sufficient African American communities in the South. The neighborhood formed after the Civil War when freed men and women moved to Durham in search of work and opportunity. They adopted the name Hayti for their new home after the independent black nation of Haiti. Hayti’s culture of independence was built on two pillars, education and entrepreneurship.

As both an educator and entrepreneur William Gaston Pearson was a key factor in making both of those pillars work in the Hayti community. The building named after him was also an important thread of the fabric of the Hayti community. W.G. Pearson, from its inception as an elementary school for Black students during segregation, has served as an educational facility and a gathering place for over 90 years.




Today, The W.G. Pearson Center continues to support the pillar of education in the Hayti community as a youth-centered space that houses activities and programs that enrich the lives and outcomes of young people. The W.G. Pearson Center is committed to advocating for equitable community improvements and continued community pride in Hayti. Watch the video below to learn more about W.G. Pearson and the Hayti community.



Learn more about the rich and complex history of the Hayti area by visiting the H is for Hayti Exhibit at The W.G. Pearson Center or the Hayti Heritage Center.


About the H is for Hayti Exhibit

The exhibit H is for Hayti focuses on the history of the neighborhood, including its vibrant businesses, schools, cultural activities, social institutions, and churches. The exhibit also addresses the loss of many of Hayti’s businesses and homes in the late 1950s to urban renewal and the Durham freeway as well as how current residents preserve and carry forward Hayti’s legacy.

The Museum of Durham History, in collaboration with the Hayti Heritage Center, opened an exhibit in the Durham A-Z series: H is for Hayti. With support from donors and the Museum of Durham History, the exhibit has been re-created for permanent display at Hayti and The W.G. Pearson Center.




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