Lessons from Hayti – One of the Best Documentaries on African American History I Have Ever Seen

The Lessons of Hayti from VELLA GROUP on Vimeo.

Black History Month is emotionally tough for a lot of educators and for their students. In talking about African American history specifically, we discover a tragic history of human suffering punctuated by resilience, creativity, joy, genius and their absolute humanity. It is lopsided to only focus on one or the other. It is lopsided to only include the American African history, nevertheless, digging into it is the only way to begin to redirect where we are headed today. This film looks at a time in African Amerian history that was extremely promising. Hayti or Durham, North Carolina was one of the areas referred to as “Black Wall Street” – a highly successful black community that was self-contained and thriving for decades. It was established by freedmen in the 1800s. Black-owned businesses and run including banking and finance, schools, trade schools and a hospital. It was home to the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. At the time company was the first Black-owned life insurance company. The ruin of Hayti was due in large part to legislation passed by the U.S. Government under Dwight Eisenhower, which financed the destruction of many independent Black communities in exactly the same way. The Urban Renewal Act allowed swaths of Hayti real estate to be repurposed.  The Federal Highway Act of 1956 allowed a highway to be constructed right through the middle of town effectively breaking it apart. These assaults brought the demise of the one thriving independent Black community. This is an eye-opening film to watch.

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