February is Black History Month, so here on the blog we’d like to share with you some of the major resources we use when researching the African American History of Asheville and Buncombe County. African Americans have made significant contributions to the history and culture of our region in areas from business ownership to art and music to dance. February isn’t the only time to honor and remember the contributions African Americans have made to the history of WNC, there are organizations that work to preserve and interpret WNC’s Black History all year round such as the African American Heritage Commission, the YMI Cultural Center, Hood Huggers, the Center for Diversity Education at UNC Asheville, and other civic and community organizations like the YWCA, and the NAACP. As I mentioned before, this is by no means an exhaustive list, rather a few of the largest and most used collections of archived manuscripts, photos, interactive data sets and more related to Black History in Buncombe County. If you’d like to find out more, be sure to drop us a line. We would love to help you on your quest to discover more about the history of African Americans in western North Carolina.
A large collection of everything from photographs to oral histories that relates to the African American experience in western North Carolina. Search this collection for a variety of primary sources related to Black Buncombe County residents from the late 19th century all the way to the late 20th century.
This collection of hundreds of photographs was taken between about 1950 and 1970. Isaiah Rice was almost never caught without a camera in his hand. His collection of photos, then, provides a glimpse into the everyday life of Asheville’s African American Community for an important portion of the 20th century for African Americans.
This digital history project is the brainchild of Sasha Mitchell, community historian, genealogist and Chairwoman of the African American Heritage Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County. The website includes a timeline of black history in the area and a map of important landmarks. The Color of Asheville can serve as an important starting point for any research project, and Sasha is an invaluable resource for all kinds of research help.
Dr. Darin Waters is an Associate Professor of History at UNC Asheville and “Life Beneath the Veneer: The Black Community in Asheville, North Carolina from 1793-1900” was his doctoral dissertation. The paper traces the history of African Americans in Asheville from the city’s founding in 1793 to the turn of the 20th century exploring Reconstruction and Racial Uplift ideology the most. Not only is his temporal history of the black community in Asheville an important text to have, but his bibliographies are a gold mine for researchers of similar subjects.
Buncombe County was the first county in North Carolina to fully digitize their bills of sale for enslaved people. These records are fully accessible online, can be searched through an easy to use Microsoft Excel spreadsheet along with digital files of the original handwritten records. The Buncombe County Register of Deeds office along with the Center for Diversity Education at UNC Asheville is currently working with other Counties across the state to file and digitize their records so that they can be more easily used for research.
The Mapping Inequality Project shows the dramatic effect Urban Renewal and Redlining Policies during the New Deal era had on historically African American Communities. Asheville has one of the most complete records of Urban Renewal history in the country and is featured in this interactive map.