“A Tribute to the Stephens-Lee High School” is Now on Video

“A Tribute to the Stephens-Lee High School” as presented by the North Carolina Room on April 9, 2019 at the Stephens-Lee Center is now on video!

Stephens-Lee High School showing the gymnasium that was dedicated in 1941.

Here’s a call out to black Asheville.


What better way to honor these people who gave so much to Asheville? What better way to never forget them? What better way to get them into the annals of Asheville’s story?

The research is fairly easy, it just takes time.  The resources available are the Stephens-Lee High School annuals and any surviving school newspapers, the Asheville City Directories, Ancestry.com, and newspapers.com. All of these are available in the North Carolina Room at Pack Memorial LIbrary.

If you can type, you can help. We will guide you in how to do this research. If you can’t type, you can follow up with city directory research. Or send your children or grandchildren, or tell your neighbor. It would be a rewarding experience for them.  We already have a good start with over 45 teacher’s lives documented. You all know these people, so you already have a head start in saving their life story.

And when we have the faculty of Stephens-Lee documented, here’s the next goal.

Let’s document every person who taught at Catholic Hill School.

We already have a good start there, too, with 10 or more teacher’s documented.

All research will be available in the North Carolina Room and at the Stephens-Lee Alumni Center.

Come into the North Carolina Room and we can talk with you about it. Or email me at zoe.rhine@buncombecounty.org. Or call the N.C. Room at 250-4740.


It has been said that Stephens-Lee High School faculty were very highly educated and that teachers from Columbia University Teachers College in New York City came to Stephens-Lee to support the teachers and encourage them to take further studies. Stephens-Lee was known for its tight community. Teachers, parents, churches. It has also been said that Stephens-Lee High School, like Asheville’s black elementary schools prior to integration, were given used books, used band instruments and uniforms, and had less school equipment, and that the teachers were paid less than teachers at Asheville’s white schools.

This story is known inside and out, within the black community. But where has it been researched and documented? As older black residents of Asheville die or move away, how will this history be passed on? Who will be here to recall it? Exactly how educated were these teachers? How did so many manage to continue in higher education studies and degrees? What influence did Teachers College have? What were the disparities between Asheville’s white and black schools? What did happen to the teachers at Stephens-Lee after integration?

A Tribute to the Stephens-Lee High School program was given as a first step in researching and documenting this incredible school, its dedicated teachers, its students and its community. And for bringing the research back to the black Asheville community.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019 at the Stephens-Lee Center

Trevor Chavis led the audiancein the Stephens-Lee alma mater, “O Stephens-Lee” written by faculty member Ollie M. Reynolds in 1929. The words of the song are remembered by every Stephens-Lee alumni.


North Carolina Room librarian, Zoe Rhine researched the 34 faculty members at Stephens-Lee in 1964, the year before the school closed

Zoe Rhine

Joe NewmanFriends of the North Carolina Board member and retired professor at the University of South Alabama in the College of Education, Joe Newman, presented the research highlighting several of the teachers and putting the education of black teachers into a social context of the era in the South.

Afterwards, a panel of four disquinshed Stephens-Lee alumni told about their experiences as students at Stephens-Lee, directed towards the main points of the presentation. Their lived experiences and how they each saw Stephens-Lee as an integral part of their lives and following professions was invaluable. 

Sarah Weston Hart
Richard Bowman
Oralene Simmons
Reverend L. C. Ray

The Faculty of Stephens-Lee High School: A Tribute, a notebook containing biographical and educational information on all 34 teachers at Stephens-Lee in 1964 is available in the North Carolina Room and at the Stephens-Lee Archives.

Research has continued on earlier teachers at Stephens-Lee, as well as on the school’s predecessor, the Catholic Hill School. An indexed notebook, Public Education for Blacks in Asheville: Beaumont Academy, Beaumont School &  Catholic Hill Newspaper Scrapbook–1886-1922 and an indexed notebook, Stephens-Lee High School Newspaper Scrapbook–1924-1965 is also now available in the North Carolina Room and when completed, copies will also be placed at the Stephens-Lee Alumni Center.

These documents were on display during the program, as well as the individual biography panels of the 34 teachers from 1964.

Program moderator and Friends of the North Carolina Room board member Roy Harris with guest Dr. Denise Patterson, Superintendent of Asheville City Schools.

And what’s history without some good food, provided by the Friends of the North Carolina Room?

Librarian Tim Means who assists the North Carolina Room, filmed the program and prepared it for viewing. Tim talks with DeWayne Barton, master-mind of Hood Huggers International, whose tour of black Asheville was the start-button for Zoe’s research.

Would you like to tell your experiences of attending Stephens-Lee High School? Only you can tell your story. Let’s document every bit of Stephens-Lee we can! Contact us at 828-252-4740 or email zoe.rhine@buncombecounty.org.

The North Carolina Room  joined with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and Buncombe County to present this program. And many thanks to Kim Kennedy and the Asheville City Parks and Recreation for their assistance and providing the space at the Stephens-Lee Center.

Here’s the video of A Tribute to the Stephens-Lee High School” as presented by the North Carolina Room on April 9, 2019 at the Stephens-Lee Center.

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