“to-day there is a singular group in Durham where a black man may get up in the morning from a mattress made by black men, in a house which a black man built out of lumber which black men cut and planed; he may put on a suit which he bought at a colored haberdashery and socks knit at a colored mill; he may cook victuals from a colored grocery on a stove which black men fashioned; he may earn his living working for colored men, be sick in a colored hospital, and buried from a colored church; and the Negro insurance society will pay his widow enough to keep his children in a colored school. This is surely progress”
– W. E. B. Du Bois
Hayti Public Tours are every 1st Saturday during the Fall (Sept. Oct. Nov.) & Spring (April, May, June)
Whistle Stop Tours strives to be a contributing voice in shaping the public memory of North Carolina’s slave past and African American achievement. In Durham’s quickly changing landscape marked by redevelopment and displacement, the public history of Durham’s Black neighborhoods is incomplete. Whistle Stop Tours celebrates the band of Black men and women coming out of slavery — the forefathers and foremothers of Durham’s Black Wall Street, Hayti, and West End neighborhoods — so that they may be elevated and their successes emulated.
Performers and activists, scholars and public historians, natives and long-time residents have all come together to preserve African American neighborhoods by sharing their stories under the umbrella of Whistle Stop Tours. This performance-based walking tour company was created by Aya Shabu in 2011 and has formed partnerships with The Hayti Heritage Center and The Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice.
75-minute walking tour in Durham's Hayti neighborhood
Aya Shabu and Whistle Stop Tours’ docents partner with the Hayti Heritage Center to explore the influence of Haiti’s revolutionary spirit on the independent African American neighborhood of Hayti. Stops include many of the neighborhood’s founding institutions including: St. Joseph’s AME Church, The Carolina Times, Lincoln Hospital and more! Stories include the women of Hayti, the power of Black churches and Urban Renewal.
75-minute walking tour in Black Durham's financial district
Aya Shabu and Whistle Stop Tours’ docents offer a comparative view of downtown Durham and its new Parrish St. neighbors. Stops include former sites of NC Mutual, John Merrick’s barbershop, the Jack Tar Hotel and more! Stories include: Booker T. Washington’s prophecy, “Superstar” C. C. Spaulding, and Viola Turner and the red dress.
75-minute walking tour in Durham's West End neighborhood
Aya Shabu and Whistle Stop Tours’ docents partner with the Pauli Murray Center for History and Social Justice to illuminate the life of unsung shero Pauli Murray – Pauli’s multi-racial ancestry, family’s legacy as educators and entrepreneurs, and commitment to human and civil rights activism. Stops include The Fitzgerald Home, Pauli Murray Mural, African-American Cemetery and more! Stories include Black Civil War soldiers, the Freedman Schools movement, and segregated travel on Durham’s first street cars. The tour begins and ends at the Pauli Murray House.
Aya Shabu is a professional dancer, choreographer, and teaching artist living in Durham, North Carolina. Aya was awarded an artist residency at the Power Plant Gallery at American Tobacco Campus in 2017. A 2012-2013 Emerging Artist Grant recipient, Aya has choreographed for some of the Triangle’s best theatrical productions, most notably I Love My Hair , The Brothers Size , and The Parchman Hour . Aya was discovered by Baba Chuck Davis in NYC and has been a touring dancer with the African American Dance Ensemble. Aya and her musician husband are artists and directors of The Magic of African Rhythm— a 30-year old family drum and dance ensemble.
Passionate about preserving African diaspora cultural traditions, Aya is the founder of Whistle Stop Tours — walking tours of African American neighborhoods. Aya is currently writing her first evening length dance-theater performance piece — LandED: My Hayti|Haiti|History .
Public Tours: Dates vary by season. Discounts available for early birds, seniors, and kids
Bus Tours: Available upon request. These 75-minute tours cover ALL three neighborhoods with a maximum of 3 stops. Cost of bus not included.
Payment: The cost for all public tours are $25.00. Payments are due at the time of registration.
A 50% deposit is required for private tours 30 days in advance otherwise the tour is not confirmed. Balance is due at the start of the tour. We accept cash, check, or card.