The WNC Historical Association (WNCHA) presents the 2020 Outstanding Achievement Award to Ann Miller Woodford on Tuesday, May 18, at 6:30 p.m. via Zoom. Woodford will be honored for her work preserving and promoting the history of African American people in far western North Carolina.
“Ann Miller Woodford has distinguished herself over many years as a fine historian and sensitive artist whose work has been essential to telling the story of African Americans in the region,” says WNCHA board of trustees president Ralph Simpson. “We hope this award will encourage others to learn more and care more about the diversity of all of Western North Carolina.”
Woodford, an advocate, historian, writer and visual artist, has brought to light the stories of a population that had been largely invisible in their homeland. Her newly released book When All God’s Children Get Together: A Celebration of the Lives and Music of African American People in Far Western North Carolina offers an account that is personal and well-researched, with compelling narratives and a wealth of images. She captures the cruelty inflicted under Jim Crow laws, as well as the kindness and decency of the mountain people, who offered support and friendship to their Black neighbors.
Woodford spent five years researching and writing the book. She traveled with her father across the region to gather information and photographs, visiting cemeteries and churches, and talking to anyone who would share their information with her, including Black, white and Cherokee people.
“An old African proverb says that when an elder dies a whole library goes to the grave with them,” says Woodford. “I want my book to encourage people of all races and ages throughout the United States to save the histories of their families before it is too late.”
The live Zoom webinar is free to attend and will include brief remarks from Woodford, Simpson, Outstanding Achievement Award committee chair Catherine Frank and WNCHA executive director Anne Chesky Smith. The webinar will also include the presentation of the Outstanding Achievement Award trophy and monetary prize as well as a 20-minute film adapted from one of Woodford’s lectures.
“As an awards committee, we marveled at the work that is ongoing in WNC to offer a more complete history of our region,” says Frank. “In this rich environment, the work of Ann Miller Woodford is indeed outstanding.”
An exhibit of the same name, curated by Woodford, is on display at the Smith-McDowell House Museum in Asheville through June 30. Tickets can be reserved at WNCHistory.org.