August 6


August 6, 1919 John Merrick, entrepreneur and businessman, died. Merrick was born enslaved December 7, 1859 in Clinton, North Carolina. He was freed after the Civil War and learned to read and write at a Reconstruction school. In 1880, Merrick moved to Durham, North Carolina and opened a series of barbershops. The success of his barbershops and his community involvement made him prominent in both the white and black communities. In 1898, he co-founded the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association “to relieve stress amongst poverty stricken segments of Durham’s Negro population.” Additionally, in 1901 he served as president of Lincoln Hospital and helped establish Durham’s first African American bank, Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and drug store, Bull City Drugs. In 1910, Merrick co-founded Merrick-Moore-Spaulding Real Estate Company to provide property insurance for black property owners. The education of black children was a priority for Merrick. In addition to supporting rural schools and the College for Blacks (now North Carolina Central University), he helped open a public library for the black children of Durham. Just prior to his death, the insurance company changed its name to North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. The company continues in business today. Merrick’s biography, “John Merrick: A Biographical Sketch,” was published in 1920.


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