Do you prefer to live in a segregated city? What could you do to change that? Would you seek out some people of the opposite race to go to dinner with–an idea, I believe, from Date My City? If enough of us did that, would it change what is happening in our city? If we could change how we appear, would it change us?
As we prepare for Black History Month in February, it seems like a good time to take a look at how well each of us knows Asheville’s history. In historically segregated cities, it’s often easy for minority history to get lost or go unrecognized. With this in mind, here’s a short reader’s questionnaire as a springboard for thought and discussion.
How well would you say you are aware of the African American history of our city? How well would you say you are aware of the white history of our city?
Name three traditionally black churches and three traditionally white churches in downtown Asheville.
Name two all-black schools that existed in Asheville before integration. Name two all-white schools that existed in Asheville before integration. Did you attend a segregated school in Asheville? If so, would you have preferred otherwise? If you attended a school in Asheville during the time of integration, what was it like?
True or false: There were no slaves in Buncombe County because there were no plantations.
What was the racial makeup of the labor force that built the Western North Carolina Railroad that reached our city in 1880 and opened up this mountain city? What was the makeup of the labor force that built our downtown’s early roads, buildings, and churches?
When was the first black commissioner elected to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners? Can you name that commissioner? When was the first black council person elected to Asheville City Council? Can you name that council person?
Name two historically honored black citizens of Asheville. Name two historically honored white citizens of Asheville.
Name three buildings named for a white citizen of Asheville. Name three buildings named for a black citizen of Asheville.
Name three traditionally black Asheville neighborhoods. Name three traditionally white Asheville neighborhoods.
If you are white, do any blacks live in your neighborhood? What is your relationship with them? If you are black, do any whites live in your neighborhood? What is your relationship with them?
Would you rather live in a segregated or an integrated neighborhood, and why?
If you are black, of the closest 15 friends in your life currently, are any of them white? If you are white, of the closest 15 friends in your life currently, are any of them black?
Do you know the effects of Asheville’s urban renewal? Do you know that Asheville has a track record for eliminating whole black communities–households and businesses included, not to mention the close-knit ties families had with one another? How many African American communities were razed? None, one, two, three or four? Can you name them? Was a white community razed during urban renewal? If you want to look at it in terms of tourism, how different would our city be if the black-owned businesses that were on The Block and in the East End before urban renewal, were still present?
Have you ever read an issue of the Asheville newspaper Urban News? The Urban News works “to build strong ties with the diverse communities of Asheville, Buncombe County, and the surrounding regions.”
Name three monuments, markers or memorials in honor of an Asheville white person. Name 3 monuments, markers or memorials in honor of an Asheville African-American.
Name three streets named in honor of a historical white person. Name three streets named in honor of a historical black person.
Have you ever visited a business on Eagle Street or The Block? If you have, what is the name of the business? Was your visit in the last year, five years or longer?
Would you eat in a black-owned and operated restaurant? If you have, in what city? Why is this question not addressed to black residents?
If you are white, have you ever attended a party, dance, or social event that was predominately black? How did you feel? Why is this question not addressed to black residents?
Have you ever attended an event at Stephens-Lee Community Center?
Have you ever attended an event at the Grant or the Edington Center?
Have you ever taken a Hood Huggers tour?
Hood Huggers tours take passengers in vans on tours of Asheville’s black communities as well as traditionally important locations downtown. Would you take this tour?
Have you participated in a Building Bridges session?
Building Bridges’ mission is “to dismantle racism by fostering relationships that respect diversity, seek understanding and encourage action. We provide educational programming paired with a safe place to learn, reflect and discuss.” It is a nine-week session meeting once a week for two hours. Would you be interested in taking a session?
Would you be interested in attending a program on historic black Asheville?
Would you be interested in attending a program on disparities in education, health, housing, income for blacks in Asheville? Very much so, Maybe, No.
Does anything surprise you about this photograph taken in 1910 at Pack Square? Look closely. Look at the color of people’s skin, their clothes, and who is conversing with whom. Click on photo to enlarge. You can also view a wall-sized full view of this photo at Pack Memorial Library, on the main floor to the left of the entrance.
We welcome all comments on this page and want to hear what your thoughts are.
Post by North Carolina Room librarian Zoe Rhine