RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A blue bus filled with people eager to learn more about life in Raleigh a century ago rolled through the city's streets Saturday during the Sigma Heritage Tour.
"This tour gives us an opportunity to move through downtown Raleigh, we've seen areas that were once known as the Black Wall Street or Main Street," said Judge David Baker, president of the Eta Sigma Alumni chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. "And we've had members who were significant in making that possible in those early days. Also visiting Shaw University and St. Augustine's University."
Their tour included a stop at what's left of St. Agnes Hospital on the St. Augustine's campus. But other historic places are not so obvious in Raleigh.
That's one reason for the ride through areas of Raleigh where a century ago, the members of Phi Beta Sigma established businesses, medical practices, supported educational institutions and much more. At a time when the South was not known for welcoming African Americans who wanted to build generational wealth.
"They were one generation removed from slavery," said chapter historian Quincy Purvis. "They were faced with some of the ugliest times of our time period. Jim Crow time, and so they had to develop things for themselves."
Some of those businesses, like the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, still operate today but others did not survive. What happened to them?
"Redevelopment, urban renewal or whatever the terms were, back in the day. But we've lost some key histories, and I'd like some of the brothers to get a historic marker or something to remember," Purvis said.
When that happens, we'll post an update, now that this story's reaching people who did not ride the Sigma Heritage Tour bus.