Songs of Freedom: Local churches 
celebrate Juneteenth through gospel music

On June 19, 1865, slaves in Galveston, Texas were told of their freedom — two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia, and over two and a half years after the Emancipation Proclamation had been signed.

Making the invisible visible: Smokies marks three years of research effort in African American history project

Combing through the dustiest tomes of park history, Great Smoky Mountains National Park researchers have since 2018 been working to elevate a plotline that so far has been relegated only to the smallest of small type — the history and contributions of African Americans within the park and in its outlying communities. 

WNC African American conference to focus on reparations

The eighth annual African Americans in Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia Conference will be held virtually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 6. The focus of this year’s event is “Reparations, Revelations and Racial Justice: The Path Forward.”

Inaugural Juneteenth celebration planned

On June 19, the Smoky Mountain District of the United Methodist Church will host a Juneteenth Freedom Celebration at Lake Junaluska. 

WNC behind state average in educator diversity

North Carolina has about 1.5 million public school students, and according to a report from the Department of Public Instruction, 52.3 percent are minority students, while only 20.5 percent of teachers are minorities. 

Integration and the disappearance of Black teachers

For Lin Forney, the end of fourth grade was the end of an era. 

The year was 1963, and the world was changing. Nine years earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision struck down the “separate-but-equal” precedent that allowed racial segregation in schools, and the Civil Rights movement was spurring change — or at least talk of it — in communities across the South. Now, that change was coming home to Haywood County. The schools were desegregating. 

Art of the invite: Brevard business aims to increase Black participation outdoors

Earl B. Hunter Jr. describes his younger self as a “Good Times kid,” growing up on free lunch and government assistance in Columbia, South Carolina. He wasn’t great at school — he didn’t even learn to read fluently until he was a teenager — but he had a quality about him. And he had a mentor. 

Podcast series explores Black Appalachian music

A six-part podcast mini-series exploring the intersection of Black history and Southern Appalachian music through the Great Smoky Mountains Association is now launching. 

“Sepia Tones: Exploring Black Appalachian Music” is hosted by Dr. William Turner and Ted Olson, surveying the many Black roots and branches of Southern Appalachian music by sharing research, listening to recordings and interviewing contemporary Black musicians and experts in music history. 

The things you don't hear

Weary and sore they came upon a small copse of Loblolly pines swaying high above a sea of softly undulating golden broomsedge just as the first light of dawn faded in from the east. 

For weeks, they’d slept during the balmy spring days and walked mostly by moonlight, never by road. At times they’d take to the train tracks, ducking into the underbrush when one of them would sense the coming of the iron horse. Other times they strode along soaring tree lines edging fallow fields, damp spongy soil radiating the last of the day’s heat to their bare feet, until they found some small, safe, out-of-the way place as dark and anonymous as their faces.

Leading the way: Love for nature spurred HCC’s Black forestry grads to barrier-breaking lives

Ron Davis Sr. was just 17 years old when he arrived in the tiny town of Clyde, completely alone. 

It was 1967, and Davis, a Black man from Knoxville, was there to start the new forestry program at Haywood Technical Institute, now known as Haywood Community College. He worked out a boarding agreement with the only Black person who lived within walking distance of the school, then located in the building that today contains Central Haywood High School, and nervously reported for his first day of class. 

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