1980s Social Activism & Social Agencies in Asheville

“Cut the Clearcutting” rally following a protest parade down Patton Avenue in Asheville 4/15/1989. O155-DS

Behind every nonprofit, there is a story. Perhaps it is the story of a regional healthcare agency that started with two lawn chairs and a card table. Or maybe it’s the story of a few people, banding together to halt mining in the Pisgah and Nantahala forests, who spearheaded an organization dedicated to preserving the natural environment of our mountains. Or the story of how a small phone hotline helping battered women evolved into a county-wide network of shelters and legal resources, eventually leading to deep changes in societal views on domestic violence.

Asheville was a small town in the 1980s. People got together and talked about like-minded ideas and needs in the community. And it was easy to start a nonprofit back then. It didn’t take a lot of money; churches and some business owners offered their basements for office space. Pretty much all of the area nonprofits you know of started from just a few people seeing a need. Many turned in to programs, committees or councils. Others turned into full-fledged organizations, many of which are still around today, sometimes merging with other organizations or changing names.

Here’s the story of one of these: MAGIC.

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MAGIC participants at Senior Citizens Opportunity Center on Grove Street. Bernice Williams, unknown, unknown, Lue Willie Young and Corine Witherspoon, 1988. MS170.

MAGIC (Mountain Area Gardeners in Communities) was begun in 1983 by Buncombe Horticultural Extension Agent Beth Carroll and Tom Youngblood-Peterson. The original idea was to put community gardens on vacant lots so that apartment dwellers and other families without room for a garden could enjoy growing some of their own food.

Children at Claxton Elementary School Gardens which involved eight classes of students, 1989. MS170

By 1988 MAGIC had spread to schools with gardens on the school grounds–the Children’s Grammar School, Claxton, the Shalom School, and Isaac Dickson. Thousands of children enjoyed the pleasures of gardening and eating their own food. MAGIC placed gardens at senior citizens housing like the Aston Park Towers, the Hillcrest community and other Housing Authority vacant lots. Gardens were created that allowed homeless people to grow food that fed people at Hospitality House. MAGIC sponsored a program for low-income families called “Grow Yourself a Garden.”

A decade after beginning the organization, in 1993 MAGIC received an $11,000 grant to expand into other Western North Carolina counties. Previous directors of MAGIC include Tom Youngblood-Peterson and Roberta Greenspan. Sue Walton and Tresca Lindsey were also heavily involved. MAGIC closed in 2000 due to lack of funding.

Students with their seedlings in cups, ready to plant at the Children’s Grammar School, 1989. MS170

Asheville in the 1980s: A Formative Decade Told By Those Who Shaped It

Third Program in the Series:

 “Social Activism and Social Agencies.”

Moderators are Ann Von Brock and Ellen Clarke.

Panelists are: Gaylen Ehrlichman, Jeff Fobes, Ed Hay, Deborah Miles and Bob Smith. Other guests in the field of social agencies will be present.


Please join us Wednesday June 29, 2016 at Pack Memorial Library,

Lord Auditorium, lower level, 6:00 pm-7:30pm.

All events are free and open to the public.

Other events in the series are:

July 27: Arts, Theater & Music–moderators Debora Austin and Phyllis Lang
August 31: Downtown Housing & the State of Buildings–moderators Kevan Frazier and Erin Derham
September 28: Politics and Civic Engagement–moderators Leslie Anderson and Becky Anderson


Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.

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