African American Landmarks

Tour curated by: RHDC

Many Raleigh landmarks reflect the achievement, culture, and struggle of the city’s African American population. The oldest date to the nineteenth century. Estey Hall, built in 1874 at Shaw University, is the country’s first building erected for the higher education of African American women. Tupper Memorial Baptist Church was built in 1912, but it continued the mission of a congregation established in 1866. St. Augustine’s College also opened around that time to train African American teachers. These institutions became a magnet, drawing the formerly enslaved to Raleigh and offering them support and opportunity amid great instability.

African American communities grew in southeast Raleigh, surrounding Shaw, St. Augustine’s, and Tupper Memorial. West of town were Method and Oberlin. The rural appearance of the John T. and Mary Turner House on Oberlin Road reflects the nature of the area around 1900. Oberlin Cemetery holds the remains of many early residents.

In the 1890s, students built the granite St. Augustine’s Chapel, now the oldest building on campus. Latta University opened in Oberlin, offering coeducational instruction to children sixteen and younger. The buildings burned but the site is landmarked for its archaeological potential. Later schools include the Berry O’Kelly School, the Catholic St. Monica’s, and Washington Graded and High School.

Many black-owned businesses in Raleigh are represented by buildings fronting E. Hargett Street, which became the black business district in the many years of segregation in the twentieth century. The Delany Building, the Raleigh Furniture Building, and even the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows Building held commercial and office space. The Masonic Temple Building on S. Blount Street was also a center of the African American community in Raleigh.

Recreational facilities were segregated as well, and blacks from all over the state traveled to Raleigh to visit Chavis Park, built by the WPA during the Depression of the 1930s. It mimicked Pullen Park, even down to the Chavis Park Carousel, a beautiful ca. 1913 merry-go-round with hand-painted decoration.

While many landmarks speak to the terrible history of segregation, a number also reveal the civil rights movement and its successes. Landmarked houses from the earliest years of the twentieth century were the homes of Raleigh’s first political and Civil Rights leaders. Decades later, public-school integration began in Raleigh in 1960 at Murphey School on N. Person Street. Exploring Raleigh’s African American-related landmarks reveals the people and places that contributed to Raleigh’s rich history.

Locations for Tour

This was the first public high school for African Americans in Raleigh and continued as the only such school until 1953. Many influential members of the Raleigh African American community were Washington High School graduates. The building is an…

The 1881 Leonard Medical School is a nice—if not entirely intact—example of the Romanesque Revival style. Its primary significance, however, lies in its connection to the medical education provided by Shaw University to black male students in the…

Leonard Medical Hospital was erected in 1912 to support the neighboring Leonard Medical School in the education of black physicians at Shaw University. The hospital initially opened in an 1885 frame building behind the medical school. It provided…

This two-story Greek Revival frame building has distinctive Italianate accents. The house was associated with a series of leading figures in local, state, and national history including congressman Sion H. Rogers, legislator William Henry Bagley,…

Estey Hall was the first structure built for the higher education of African American women in the United States and is the oldest surviving building on the Shaw University campus. Designed by G. S. H. Appleget, the building has a cross-gabled roof…

Thirty-six hand-carved, hand-painted horses--all jumpers--carry revelers around and around on the Chavis Park Carousel, a gem in the WPA-era park built for African Americans in segregated Raleigh. Before Chavis Park, African Americans had only…

The Dr. M.T. Pope House is the last structure in its original location illustrating the presence of a middle and professional class of African-American families along South Wilmington Street. Dr. Pope was a politically active and well-known African…

Dr. Henry Martin Tupper founded the church in 1866 as Second Baptist Church, providing religious services and classes for African Americans, including theological training for preachers, adult education, and eventually high school and grade school…

This three-story brick building with Italianate details housed commercial space on the first floor, a meeting hall on the second floor, and the Masonic Hall on the third floor. It was built in 1907 by Raleigh's earliest African American…

Gethsemane Seventh-Day Adventist Church at 501 South Person Street was the first SDA church, black or white, established in Raleigh. Many of Gethsemane’s elders and pastors went on to become influential leaders in the black SDA movement, most…

The Atwater-Perry House is an excellent example of a late-nineteenth century, middle-class dwelling. The house is significant for its association with two middle-class black families in Raleigh. William Atwater, a grocer, bought the ca. 1898…

The Delany Building is one of only two remaining commercial structures built on Raleigh's "Black Main Street" before World War II. Builder Dr. Lemuel T. Delany, the first black surgeon practicing at Saint Agnes Hospital and son of the…

A three-story brick building in the late Romanesque Revival style with Italianate elements, the Raleigh Furniture Building operated as a furniture retailer for much of the 20th century. Its façade showcases a high degree of architectural detail,…

An early commercial building, this utilitarian, three-story painted brick structure was originally a clothing warehouse and manufacturing facility. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (GUOOF), an African American fraternal organization, purchased…

African American members of the N. Salisbury Street First Baptist Church requested separation in 1868 to form their own church. At diagonal corners of Union Square, the two Baptist churches represent two different phases of the Gothic Revival style.…

The Catholic Diocese of Raleigh built St. Monica's for African American students in 1930, when all city schools were still segregated. This small building with spare Gothic detailing housed eight elementary grades in four classrooms. The school…

Built by physician and business leader Lemuel Thackara Delany of the distinguished Delany family of Raleigh and his wife, Saint Augustine's College instructor Julia Amaza (Brown) Delany, this historically significant one-story frame dwelling is…

David Weaver made Raleigh swing in the 1930s and 1940s. Weaver managed the dance hall in the Masonic Temple at 427 S. Blount Street; he ran a soda shop, billiard hall, beer garden, and a social club there, too. Weaver was also the local booking agent…

The chapel is one of the oldest surviving buildings on Saint Augustine's campus. Students built the irregular T-shaped chapel of native granite under the direction of Rev. Henry Beard Delany. The broad overhangs of the gable roof are reminiscent…

Fire severely damaged the original 1895 building, which housed a nurse training center. Under the direction of Rev. Henry Beard Delany, the first African American Episcopal bishop in North Carolina, students quarried the stone and started the current…

Designed by architect James M. Kennedy, this three-story classically inspired brick building is the oldest standing public school building in Raleigh and one of the few remaining examples of this academic style. Murphey School played a significant…

The church building is an example of high Victorian Gothic Revival architecture with its abundance of ornamental and visual complexity. Founding members withdrew from Edenton Street Methodist Church in 1849 to establish the first separate African…

Willis Graves, an African American brick mason, built this two-and-a-half-story frame Queen Anne house soon after buying the land in 1884. The square corner turret and front bay window with roof pediment are placed on a basic I-house form. The house,…

The picturesque one-story frame Queen Anne cottage was built for Plummer T. Hall, the first pastor of the Oberlin Baptist Church, as a wedding present for his bride. The house, which remains in the Hall family, has a turreted porch and bay window as…

The Turner House is an intact Neoclassical I-house in the African American community of Oberlin. The house was expanded by John T. Turner, Oberlin's major landowner, around 1900 from a three-room one-story house. While the I-house type is more…

Oberlin Cemetery is a 3-acre site within the Oberlin community, once a thriving African American village located on Raleigh's outskirts. According to oral tradition, the cemetery originally acted as a slave burial ground. As Oberlin grew through…

At the start of the twentieth-century, the once-rural freedman's village of Oberlin had grown into a tight-knit community of middle-class African American families. Oberlin had well-established churches, small retail shops, and the highest rate…

This Gothic Revival church, erected in 1910 to replace an 1873 wood-frame chapel, is the earliest and most prominent surviving institutional building in the once-rural freedman's community of Oberlin. The church sustained heavy damage from…

In 1892, freed slave and teacher Rev. M. L. Latta founded Latta University, a coeducational institution established to educate underprivileged and orphaned children in Raleigh's African American community. Located in historic Oberlin, the Latta…

In 1894 Berry O'Kelly and others on the School Committee for House Creek Township District # 2 purchased one acre of land for a school. Through numerous additions over the years, including as late as 1962, the campus eventually grew to…

Following Berry O’Kelly’s death in 1931, his namesake school continued to serve the community of Method. As more schools for African Americans were established in the area, its enrollment began to fall. The push toward integration further…

Berry O'Kelly School is in the Method community, a freedman’s village established by former slave Jesse Mason and his family. The Agriculture Building is the oldest of only two surviving buildings from the multi-building school complex founded…

The grave of Berry O'Kelly School's founder is the only grave on the church grounds south of the school parcel. A stone plinth also accommodates a planter with a small boxwood that partially obscures the dressed face of the stone. The…

This Gothic Revival brick church was built by a congregation founded in 1873. It is located in the Method community, a post-Civil War freedman’s village since enveloped by Raleigh's growth. The stylish exuberance of its brick detailing is…

St. Matthews is one of just five remaining Rosenwald schools in Wake County; twenty-one were built in the early twentieth century. Julius Rosenwald, an owner of Sears, Roebuck, and Company, established a charitable fund to open schools for African…