Bull City Tour Of Downtown Durham (offered by IHouse)

Author name
Ashan-wa Aliogo

On the 12th of October, I took a tour around Downtown Durham with a group Duke international students and scholars. I love learning about different cultures and histories and I saw this as an opportunity to get off campus and learn more about the place I’ve been living for the past three years. I’m Nigerian and it’s always a treat learning about various cultures and histories outside my own. I find it adds more spice to life and gives me a wider perspective on what the world is and is not.

We arrived around 10:30am by the Bull City Connector bus at our first stop, The Museum of Durham History.  I was quite shocked by how familiar I was with the surrounding. I had walked past the building se veral times without giving a second glance. The museum was more of a story museum as opposed to an artifact one. Nonetheless, it was very intriguing to learn about the history of Durham as a relatively young city founded on the tobacco industry (that no longer exists). I read up on some notable figures like Mamie Dowd Walker who was the first woman to be a judge in North Carolina, Pauli Murray who was the first African American to receive a law degree from Yale and John Merrick who was an African American slave turned barber turned business mogul. One thing I didn’t realize was how rich the Black culture was in Durham. There were many businesses and congregations founded by various African American individuals, some of which were women.

Our next activity was a walking tour and we spotted different places from the Carolina theatre to a building (currently a hotel) designed by William Lamb who designed the Empire’s State building. It was really exhilarating seeing all these once tobacco factories being renovated, expanded, and modernized into tourist sites, restaurants and boutiques. Although the tobacco industry is rather extinct in Durham, I appreciated the preservation of the legacy. I always had a soft spot for the brick architecture because I loved the gothic, modern vibe it adds to the city. Having the historical context behind these buildings increased my admiration even more. I love it when artifacts have stories attached to them because I’m transported through time and somehow feel connected with characters of the story.

The walking tour lasted for about an hour and was followed by lunch! We split up into groups and my group went to a cute restaurant called Beyu Caffe. Again, I had passed by this restaurant a thousand times but never thought to go in. The food was great and so was the company. I absolutely loved that each person in my group was from a different country; Nigeria, Colombia, Italy, Argentina, United States and South Korea. We talked about topics ranging from school systems to food culture and it was interesting seeing how similar yet different each of us was. It was a nice, sunny day so we walked back to East campus (yes, it was that close) and said our farewells. It was a lovely activity and to think that I almost missed it because I somehow managed to leave from the wrong location was quite disheartening. Long story short, I’m glad I didn’t.

As an undergrad at Duke, it’s so easy to get carried away with all the million things happening on campus (which is really great, mind you). But every so often, we fail to discover life outside the “Duke Bubble”. I always thought that Durham, no, North Carolina was more or less a dead place but I’ve done a quite a few things here that are gradually making me believe otherwise; sky diving, white-water rafting in the White water center and now this tour to list a few. I’m definitely looking for more opportunities to get off campus and explore the Durham area more. I hope you do too.

Author’s Bio: Ashan-wa Aliogo is currently a Junior at the Trinity College Of Arts and Sciences. She is majoring in International Comparative Studies and French while pursuing a certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She is passionate about culture, fashion and branding. She founded a website called Miss LAJA (www.misslaja.com) where she strives to reverse the misconception of African prints as cliché or outdated by styling and showcasing their versatility for different seasons and occasions.  She also shares her interpretations on various African proverbs and publishes the interpretations of individuals she converses with. On campus, she’s involved in Duke Africa as the Jabulani chair and has a soft, soft spot for green tea.