Aaron McDuffie Moore

An African American Physician, Educator, and Founder of Durham's Black Wall Street

By Blake Hill-Saya

Foreword by Rep. G. K. Butterfield
Afterword by C. Eileen Watts Welch

280 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 45 halftones, 1 figure, notes, bibl., index

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-5585-7
    Published: May 2020
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-5586-4
    Published: March 2020
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5454-4
    Published: March 2020

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Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863–1923) was born in rural Columbus County in eastern North Carolina at the close of the Civil War. Defying the odds stacked against an African American of this era, he pursued an education, alternating between work on the family farm and attending school. Moore originally dreamed of becoming an educator and attended notable teacher training schools in the state. But later, while at Shaw University, he followed another passion and entered Leonard Medical School. Dr. Moore graduated with honors in 1888 and became the first practicing African American physician in the city of Durham, North Carolina. He went on to establish the Durham Drug Company and the Durham Colored Library; spearhead and run Lincoln Hospital, the city's first secular, freestanding African American hospital; cofound North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company; help launch Rosenwald schools for African American children statewide; and foster the development of Durham's Hayti community.

Dr. Moore was one-third of the mighty "Triumvirate" alongside John Merrick and C. C. Spaulding, credited with establishing Durham as the capital of the African American middle class in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and founding Durham's famed Black Wall Street. His legacy can still be seen on the city streets and country backroads today, and an examination of his life provides key insights into the history of Durham, the state, and the nation during Reconstruction and the beginning of the Jim Crow Era.

About the Authors

Blake Hill-Saya is a classical musician and creative writer living in Los Angeles.
For more information about Blake Hill-Saya, visit the Author Page.

G. K. Butterfield is a U.S. Representative representing the 1st District of North Carolina, which stretches from Durham to Elizabeth City.
For more information about G.K. Butterfield, visit the Author Page.

C. Eileen Watts Welch is the president and CEO of Durham Colored Library, Inc.
For more information about C. Eileen Watts Welch, visit the Author Page.


“A readable, lyrically written biography. . . . Hill-Saya imbues this work with love and admiration for the physician, entrepreneur, and educator that has endured across generations.” —Journal of Southern History

“[A] well-written narrative. . . . [Hill-Saya] brings[s] to the fore not only the accomplishments of one of the outstanding Black community leaders of the Jim Crow South but . . . shine[s] a light on the vastly overlooked role that the Black professional class had in shaping the South during the segregation era.” —Journal of African American History

"Engaging, inspiring, and expertly written, this biography of Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore provides an important window into the history of North Carolina and Durham in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries." —Robert R. Korstad, author of Civil Rights Unionism: Tobacco Workers and the Struggle for Democracy in the Mid-Twentieth Century South

"Dr. Aaron McDuffie Moore is a legend. Or he should be. If Dr. Moore had simply been the first black physician in Durham, North Carolina, that would have been a sufficient accolade to go down in history. However, he was much more. He was a cofounder of practically every substantial institution in Durham’s African American community at the turn of the twentieth century and a key figure in the development of its famed Black Wall Street. Most of these institutions still exist today. Blake Hill-Saya has done us all a great service by capturing Dr. Moore’s incredible story for future generations." —Henry C. McKoy Jr., Lead Entrepreneurship Faculty and Director of Entrepreneurship at North Carolina Central University School of Business

“A beautifully written page turner that effortlessly weaves so much of this nation’s story into the life of a remarkable and courageous individual. Carefully researched and painfully honest, its insights are a gift both to the general reader and serious historian.” —David Barton Smith, Drexel University