Heritage/History Lifestyle

WNCHA Explores Our Appalachian Region, Literature and Stereotypes

The Western North Carolina Historical Association’s upcoming events include both virtual and in-person activities that examine different aspects of the region’s past. On Thursday, July 29, at 6:30 p.m., Dr. Erica Abrams Locklear of University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) concludes the WNC History Lecture Series with a virtual discussion of literature and stereotypes of WNC and Appalachia. From traveler accounts and color writers, to stereotyped hillbillies and a romanticized land, this presentation examines the changes in the depictions of this region and its people over time.

“Understanding how, when and why stereotypes formed can help us think about the impact literature can have on shaping national perceptions of region and culture,” says Locklear. “For Appalachia, late 19th-century, local-color literature did much to cement some of the most negative ideas associated with the region, while 20th- and 21st-century mountain writers often complicate those simplistic narratives.”

Explore both the outdoors and the history of the Buncombe Turnpike while hiking the Saluda Gap (the southern terminus of the turnpike) on Saturday, August 7, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. The route ran north through this pass, predominantly along the French Broad River, to the NC/TN border, and was a vital transportation route for livestock drovers and early travelers. It also connects the history of both the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site and the Smith-McDowell House.

“On this hike, we will engage with the past through the lens of nature, taking steps out of time to really focus on the historic realities of travel, economics and enslavement in WNC, which are revealed through the story of the Buncombe Turnpike,” says Vance Birthplace assistant site manager Lauren May, who will lead the excursion.

Shiloh, Past and Present: A Virtual Discussion takes place Thursday, August 12, at 6:30 p.m. The multi-generational discussion of one of Asheville’s oldest historically Black communities will be led by retired community historian Anita White-Carter and filmmaker and activist Maria Young. Shiloh was inhabited by many newly freed people after the Civil War. Owing to construction of the Biltmore Estate, and later changes wrought by highway and interstate development, many locals refer to both old and new Shiloh because of changing boundaries and building locations.

“Shiloh is important because of who we are and what we represent—Black excellence and Black power,” says Young. “It is important that our legacy and history be passed on and forever preserved as a staple and reminder of our being here and the brawn we possess, even in the face of an ever-evolving city.”

For more information or to purchase tickets to these events, visit WNCHistory.org/event. For questions, email Trevor Freeman at Education@WNCHistory.org.

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