All year I planned to take vacation; and my destination would be in a place called Durham, NC to visit my daughter and her husband who were expecting their first child. He would be our tenth grandchild of which there are three girls and six boys. I decided to drive the eight and half hours with my friends who were going to their home in Atlanta, Georgia. We made several gas stops and got something to eat.
I think I took a little ‘cat nap’ and found myself waking up to my own snoring, which of course was embarrassing. We arrived at my destination in the late afternoon to a town full of oak trees lining the streets everywhere and a clean looking town. The streets were smooth and traffic flowed unlike New York City as I was accustomed to and no one walking on the streets of course.
As I approach the area that my family lived, I noticed tall oak and pine trees kissing the sky, and such quietness and a feeling of peace in the environment. Many of the homes and communities are built within the forest. Everywhere you look there are large areas of land, sounds of crickets and birds playing the background music.
That night I slept like a baby with a cool evening breeze and the sound of all kinds of forest creatures that surrounded the homes. Only recognizing the crickets and an occasional dog barking.
The following morning, I awoke feeling rested and looking forward to the day. Again, being greeted by nature and its beautiful sounds of birds singing and the cool morning breeze blowing in the air. The sun bursting through the windows and a great sense of quietness. I was ready to start my day.
After eating our breakfast -organic yellow grits covered with a delightful mixture of vegetables and skinless boneless sardines and a cup of red zinga tea; I was ready to do some sight seeing of the area and the town. While my family was preparing them,selves, I stepped out on the porch and stared into the surrounding forest with amazement and many thoughts running through my head. I was so appreciative of God’s beautiful bounty. It was strange because the thought of slavery crept into my presence. I started thinking about the beauty and the dangers of the forest. The possibility that I may be in the presence of those ancestors who may have run to their freedom through these very woods and probably hide from their captures as well. I found myself in quietude and still for a few minutes.
I later asked my son-in-law who grew up in the area, if he knew of slavery in this part of Durham, NC. He confirm my suspicious and stated that their is a Duke Homestead about five minutes away from their home. I asked him to take me there as soon as he could for I knew as a New Yorker when people down south say anything is within minutes, it still means you have to drive. Later that day, we went walking in the surrounding area into the forest. In the area there are all the amenities you would want in your community. There are parks for the children, a swimming pool, biking and walking trails, tennis courts, soccer, football courts, basketball courts and much more.
As we began our walk through the forest, I starred through the tall trees and noticed the many creeks with water streaming and open play areas where children can just imagine and be creative with their play. Just as I was finishing the thought, I heard the sound of dry crackling leaves and laughter coming through the forest. It was the sound and conversation of young boys with their older sibling. They looked relaxed and happy. I could not help but to imagine my own grandsons playing and having such fun amongst these trees. As we passed each other we exchanged greetings and continued our walk and conversations of who might have passed through here and other worldly matters. We continued the trail passing others who were walking theirs dogs and others jogging.
The following morning, I got up with great anxiety reminding my family to take me to the Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum. We ate breakfast and I helped my daughter set up the nursery for our new arrival, and assisted her in putting Ghanaian twist in her hair which looked beautiful.
Later that day, we went to the Duke Homestead. I was informed that the Dukes’ family made their money by selling tobacco. As I looked with amazement at the vast landmark and the many homestead I could not wait to star my tour.
The tour guide began the tour explaining the Dukes’ family history. It was a typical American story of an idea and dream of survival for Duke Washington who was a small farmer. He survived off of a small piece of land and took care of his family. He went off to fight in the Civil War and returned to his home with hardly anything left to survive on but some tobacco trees and a couple of blind mules.
This Orange County farmer whose chance discovery that Union troops were helping themselves to local Bright Leaf tobacco led him to the fortuitous decision to market the golden “weed.” His vision, along with the soldiers’ fond memories – helped Duke and others create a market for Durham-area tobacco products that eventually would transform North Carolina into a world -wide tobacco empire.
With his children, he began a factory in small log structure on the homestead, processing smoking tobacco and labeling it with hand-lettered tags bearing the name “Pro Bono Publico,” Latin for “the public good” which is quite the opposite today… but, let me not digress.
They were the first according to history notes that began mechanically producing mass production of cigarettes. Many of the profits were used to invest in land and to develop fast-growing southern industries such as electric power and textiles, but many also were used for humanitarian causes. Trinity College, later to become Duke University, Benefited from the family contributions. Duke University Hospital is also known for great medical care worldwide.
Since first introduced to early settlers by native peoples, tobacco had been a vital part of the economic heritage of North Carolina. As I walked through the museum, I could not help but wonder about the contribution of the black slaves and/or workers who may have contributed to this enterprise.
As fate would have it, as we turned the corner there was a picture board of a young black slave telling his story of how he fell asleep on the job and soon woke up to the temperature of the tobacco falling. He started to put a larger amount of coal that raised the temperature and caused the tobacco to change its color to yellow and thereby creating a different taste. This new type of tobacco became the most expensive and the most popular on the market.
There is more to discover about Durham, NC. I would encourage you to visit the area and learn so valuable American History. There are many of the original machinery on the premises. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org/ Admission is free.