Gratitude to those who are organizing these essential opportunities for remembrance. They are critical to creating a community where such violence and exploitation is impossible.
Buncombe Community Remembrance Project Markers Installation
“In order to move forward, we have to confront uncomfortable truths from our past. The Buncombe Community Remembrance Project aims to honor and commemorate Black Buncombe County residents by acknowledging racial violence stemming from the Jim Crow era that included three known lynchings in our community. However, there were likely more lives lost to racially motivated violence that we’ll never know about or have the chance to recognize and honor.
To pay tribute to victims of racial violence, [the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association of Asheville and] Buncombe County invite you to the Community Remembrance Project Historical Markers’ installation ceremony.
What: Buncombe Community Remembrance Project Historical Markers Installation Ceremony
When: Saturday, Oct. 30 at 10 a.m.
Where: Pack Square Park, 121 College St., Asheville
This installation is part of [the MLK Association] and County’s partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative’s (EJI) Historical Marker Project that collaborates with communities to memorialize documented victims of racial violence that occurred from 1877-1950, as well as to foster meaningful dialogue about race and justice.
The Installation Ceremony is free and open to the public. Free parking is available at the City of Asheville’s Public Works’ parking lots located at Eagle and South Charlotte, Valley Street, and Margie Street. Pack Square Park is located at 121 College St.
The historical markers’ locations are as follows:
· Mr. John Humphries, College and South Spruce Streets
· Mr. Bob Brackett, Triangle Park 58, South Market Street
· Mr. Hezekiah Rankin, 7 Emma Road
You can learn more about educational programming, reconciliation events, and other parts of this multifaceted initiative here.”
The linked MLK Association webpage includes videos of the powerful ceremonies that have been held to date (also found on the MLK Association YouTube channel).
Railroad and Incarcerated Laborer Memorial
On Sunday, October 17, the Railroad and Incarcerated Laborer Memorial (RAIL) project unveiled a new monument at Andrew’s Geyser in Old Fort. This granite marker memorializes the incarcerated African American laborers who toiled and died constructing the Mountain Division of the Western North Carolina Railroad in the late 1800s. Learn more here.
BPR News covered this important event: “Lost or forgotten no more: Incarcerated Black laborers that built WNC railroad memorialized.”
Excerpt: “Once completed, the railroad finally connected Western North Carolina to the rest of the state, helping to build a new industry here – tourism – which more than 140 years later remains the region’s chief economy. The laws that incentivized the arrests of all those incarcerated African American laborers that built the railroad – those still linger to this day too.”
Last year Bitter Southerner published, “Somebody died, babe: A musical cover up of racism, violence, and greed,” an illuminating article which goes deeper into the painful history of the railroad through the cultural lens of the traditional song Swannanoa Tunnel. It is a critical read as we remember and reckon. You can also watch this webinar with the authors of the article, which was hosted by Warren Wilson College:
Slave Deeds Project Adds 50,000 Names, Launches Statewide Database
From Buncombe County: A valuable research tool conceived in Buncombe County’s Register of Deeds is bolstering its database and garnering statewide attention. Thanks in part to a $294,000 grant, the Slave Deeds of Buncombe County Project has partnered with UNC Greensboro adding 50,000 names from 12 other North Carolina counties that will help African Americans learn more about their past. “It’s an amazing resource for African Americans trying to find their ancestral stories,” explains County Register of Deeds Drew Reisinger. “It’s always going to be difficult for African Americans to do this challenging research, but hopefully this tool will make it easier for those who want to.”
After the success of the initial cataloguing of Buncombe County slave deeds, Reisinger partnered with the North Carolina Office of Archives and History and UNC Greensboro to secure a National Archives grant that would further this groundbreaking and important work. “This initiative is made exponentially more impactful to be statewide and even nationally, because slaves were bought and sold across county and state lines,” notes Reisinger. The grant not only expanded the project’s research, it also helped secure the database within the state-based Digital Library on American Slavery…
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