John Merrick

Born before the Civil War to a free African American mother, John Merrick (1859-1919) began his career as a bricklayer, then took up barbering and opened a chain of shops in Durham. His regular customers included the white tobacco barons Julian S. Carr and Washington Duke, who became mentors to him in business.

Merrick diversified into insurance and co-founded the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association (later North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co.) with Aaron M. Moore in 1898.

When tobacco spokesman Edward J. Parrish went bankrupt and his downtown property went up for sale, Merrick began buying lots on Parrish Street. In 1906 he moved the Mutual offices there. Mutual was followed by Mechanics and Farmers Bank and a number of other black-owned financial enterprises and professionals' offices, leading to Parrish Street being dubbed "Wall Street of Negro America" in a 1949 Ebony Magazine article.

Merrick's home was on Fayetteville Street, in the first block south of Pettigrew. The house was demolished during Durham Freeway construction in the mid-1960s

Merrick Street