D. H. Ramsey Library Special Collections and University Archives

Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection
ca. 1888-1972

M77.10.15 ; OS77.10.1-3

"May Day at the Stadium in the 1940's", Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection,
D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, UNC Asheville 28804

"African-Americans helped create what we know today as home. The labors of women and men helped build our land while the lives they lived helped create the mountain culture. Black children learned from their elders skills needed to survive and prosper as Asheville and Buncombe County experienced and emerged from the Reconstruction era. What we do with this remarkable inheritance is entirely up to us."

-Dr. Dwight Mullen, from An Unmarked Trail, exhibit created by Debbie Miles, Center for Diversity Education.

Title Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection
Alt. Title Black Highlanders Collection
Creator Mrs. Lucy Saunders Herring
Alt Creator Southern Highlands Research Center, UNCA
Alt. Creator Jean McKissick McNeill
Alt. Creator Johnny Baxter
Alt. Creator Digital additions by Scott McKenzie, WCU Public History student
Description Often excluded and invisible from the histories of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, those of African-American descent contributed much to the physical and cultural environment of these highlands. Those who were credited as being responsible for the creation of Buncombe County and Morristown, eventually the thriving tourist and trade center known as Asheville, owed much to those who were enslaved. This site focuses upon the donations of Mrs. Lucy Saunders Herring, Mr. Johnny Baxter, Jean McKissick McNeil, the Southern Highlands Research Center and YMI Cultural Center. Supplementing these valuable donations are additional resources from various donors and sources. These additional resources are listed below to expand the temporal framework, for the history of these people extended before and after the dates of the original donated material. For instance, the labor of these slaves not only helped build Asheville, but also fed, clothed, and served those of privilege. Additionally, those of African-American descent contributed greatly to the folkways of Southern Appalachia dispelling the myth of a homogenous society and culture in this region. Following emancipation, these people built their own thriving environment segregated from the majority population but still vital to the culture and economy of Western North Carolina.
Publisher D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804
Contributor A committee of retired educators, chaired by Lucy S. Herring, working with the UNCA Southern Highlands Research Center: Mrs. Vivian C. Cooper, Mrs. Juanita H. Weaver, Mrs. Gertrude D. Jones, Mrs. Virginia H. Daniels, Mrs. Elynora M. Dargan, Mrs. Sadie D. Moore, Mrs. C. H. James, Mrs. Tommie P. White, and Mrs. Leona M. Owens.
The materials they collected were presented to the public on August 28, 1977 at the auditorium of the YWCA.
Date original n/a
Date digital 2001-05-01, updated 2005-12-07, 2006-01-04 JP ; 2006-02-01 Scott Mckenzie ; 2011-02-05 HW
Type Collection ; Text ; Image
Format 5 manuscript boxes, 4 oversize boxes; 6 cu. ft.
Source M77.10.1-5 ; OS77.10.1-4
Language English
Coverage temporal 1888-1972
Coverage spatial Asheville, NC
Rights No restrictions.
Any display, publication, or public use must credit the D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville.
Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendents, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Acquisition 1977-10 ; 1978-10 ; 1979-06-01
Citation Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection, D.H. Ramsey Library Special Collections, University of North Carolina at Asheville 28804.
Processed by Special Collections staff, 1977, 1978, 1979 ; 2001, 2005, 2006

Digital Images

Over 200 photographs from the Heritage of Black Highlanders Collection have been digitized and are viewable through DigitalNC.

Churches The Churches
(Hill Street Baptist Church, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, Nazareth First Baptist Church, New Zion Baptist Church, St. Matthias Episcopal Church, Calvary Presbyterian Church, St. James A.M.E. Church, Berry Temple United Methodist Church, Brown Temple Christian Methodist Church, Hopkins Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church)
Schools The Schools
(Asheville State Summer School, Allen High School, Calvary Parochial School, Allen Home School/ Allen High School, St. Anthony's School, Tiny Tots Nursery School, Lucy S. Herring School (formerly Mountain Street School), Hill Street School Shiloh Elementary School, Livingston Street School, Burton Street School, Carver School, Green Mountain School, Catholic Hill School, Stephens-Lee High School, South French Broad School, Livingstone College, Mars Hill College, Asheville State Summer School, Stewart's School of Beauty)
Businesses and Workers The Businesses and Workers
(Blue Ridge Hospital, Torrence Hospital, Candy Land, NC Mutual Insurance Company, Allen & Associates Mortuary, Jesse Ray Funeral Home, Grove Park Inn Employees, Southern Railway Porters)
People The People
(Portraits- Mrs. Rachel Battle, Joseph Belton, Mrs. A. Y. Bovian, Mrs. Willie Bowman, Ralph Brown, Reuben H. Bryant, Will C. Burgan, Mrs. Iola P. Byers, Eugene Castion, Isaac Coleman and Wanda Henry-Coleman, Garland Cooper, J. C. Daniels, FeliciaDavis, John Davis, Francine Delany, Rev. E. W. Dixon and Mrs. E. W. Dixon, Isaac Dickson and Mrs. Isaac Dixon, Otis Elson Dunn, Charles B. Dusenbury, Paul Dusenbury, Arthur R. Edington, J. E. Fleming; Jesse H. Gibson Sr.; Dahleen Glanton; Wesley Grant Sr. with choir; Sam Graves; G. W. Hamilton; Mary Jane Dickson Harris; Osborne Hart; Sgt. Chester A. Hayes; Lt. Col. Robert M. Hendrick; Charles C. Hennessee Jr.; Mrs. Willie Hennessee; Asa D. Herring; Mrs. Lucy S. Herring; Theodore Hicks; William Hicks; Mattie Mae Hill; Mrs. Ruby Hilton; Dr. John P. Holt; Benjamin J. Jackson Sr.; Dr. Ed Jones; Mrs. Gertrude D. Jones; Maggie Jones; Mona Jones; Howard Kennedy; Mrs. Rita Lee; Mrs. Claire Lennon; Madison Lennon; Hattie Love; Dr. Albert Manley; Walter Howard Mapp Sr.; Oliver W. McCorkle; John Henry McGinness; Ernest B. McKissick; Floyd McKissick; James E. McMickens; Oscar McMickens; Wheaton McMickens; Mrs. Nannie Michael; Dr. L. O. Miller; Quentin Miller; Gus Morrison; E. W. Pearson; Edward W. Pearson Jr.; Herbert Porter; George W. Powers; Albert S. Reynolds; Henry Robinson; William E. Roland; Rev. Ronald Scott; Mrs. Mattie Sears; Evelyn Torrence Shaw; Charles Sisney; Eugene Smith; John W. Stitt; Frank A. Toliver; Dr. William G. Torrence; Miss Ruth Walther; Dr. H. N. White; Sgt. James R. White Jr.; Dr. John White; Mrs. Tommie P. White; Alfred J. Whitesides Jr.; Lahman Williams; Harold J. Wilson; Ruby Woodbury; Fred Woodford.

Biographical- Alston; Dr. Marcus; Brown; Harrison B.; Cooper; Mrs. Vivian Cline; Dusenbury; Paul; Edington; Charles Arthur; Haith; Lacy Thomas; Hart; Osborn M.; Hennessee; Mrs. Willie Ford; Hilton; Ruby W. S.; Jackson; Benjamin James Sr.; Johnson; Lessie; Lee; Professor Walter Smith; Mapp; Walter Howard; Martin; Fred Pope Sr.; McGinness; John Henry Sr.; Miller; James Vester; Miller; Lee Otus [Leotus] M.D.; Owens; Sylvester M.; Roland; William; Scott; Rev. Ronald; Stephens; Professor Edward; Stokes; Jessie Harris; Thompson; Dr. Eva; Trent; Dr. William Johnson; Walls; William Jacob;  White; Dr. H. N..)

Civic, Social and Political Organizations The Civic, Social and Political Organizations

(Girl Scouts; Boy Scouts; Young Men's Institute (YMI); YWCA; Shiloh Health Improvement Organization; Red Cross; Montford Hill Community Club; Center for Performing Arts; Senior Opportunities Center; Mrs. Mamie Machen's Nursing Home; Asheville Beauticians Chapter Five; Brotherhood Club Tuscola High School; Negro Welfare Council; Asheville Federation of Negro Women's Clubs; Civil Service Commission; 11th Congressional District Black Leadership Caucus; Social Services Council of Asheville and Buncombe County; NAACP; Asheville-Buncombe Commission on the Status of Women; Masons Knights of Pythias; Plant Flower and Fruit Guild; Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council.)

Military Military Service

(Black Highlanders in World War I, Elijah Ray, North Carolina Regiment, Stephens Lee, Spanish American War.)




(Community Planning, Publications, Clippings and Articles, Black Highlanders Collection, Awards and certificates, Scrapbook, Newspapers, (The Southern News, The West Asheville News, The Church Advocate, Southland Advocate, Asheville Times.)

Additional Resources Description
Davis, Lenwood. The Black Heritage of Western North Carolina. Design & printing by University Graphics, UNCA. Mr. Davis examines African-American life in Western North Carolina, mainly Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, and Rutherford Counties, from the antebellum period through the 1980s. Six themes bind the history of African-Americans in Western North Carolina: maintaining culture through the churches; self-help and uniting for a common cause; education; social mobility; patriotism; music. Davis states: "Blacks in Western North Carolina have survived for more than two hundred years as an example Black self-determination. Perhaps this work will serve as a useful model for the study of Black history on a regional level for other states."(7)

UNCA SpecColl E185.93.N6 B567 1980

Olmstead, Frederick Law. Journey in the Back Country, Volumes I & II, 1853-1854. New York: Putnam & Sons, 1907. Located in the U.N.C. Asheville Ramsey Library's general collection (F 213 O4. 7 1970b), this work documents the travels of Frederick Law Olmstead through the South, including the Southern Appalachian Highlands. Olmstead observed that the slaveholders in the highlands as "being chiefly professional men, shop-keepers, and men in office, who are also land owners, and give a divided attention to farming." (226) Olmstead noted of those in bondage in the Highlands as compared to those in bondage in the lowlands as "being directed to a greater variety of employments, their habits more resemble those of ordinary free laborers, they exercise more responsibility, and in both soul and intellect they are more elevated."(227) While this observation can be debated, the relevance of this work shows that African-Americans were not invisible in this region, as was often presented, and that Southern Appalachia was not wholly populated by those of Scots-Irish or Western European descent. Southern Appalachia, while not containing the large numbers of slaves that existed to the south and east, still was ethnically diverse and owed much to the labor of those people held against their will.   
1860 Census Population
Slave Schedules
Asheville Pack Memorial Library
Micro Copy No. M653
Roll 920
This 1860 census taken in Buncombe County, North Carolina, lists the names of the slave owners, the numbers of slaves owned, the age of the slave, sex, color-either mulatto or black, whether the slave was a fugitive of the state or manumitted, whether the slave was deaf and dumb, blind, insane or idiotic, and the number of slave houses present on the property of the owner. Names of the slave owners on these schedules include many of Asheville and Buncombe County's most prominent citizens. These prominent names can be found on various street signs and as names of communities throughout Asheville and Buncombe County and include: Zebulon V., R. B., Vance; John, John D., James, James W. Thomas, Montraville and Nancy Patton; W. L. Hilliard; Montraville and Jacob Weaver; A. S., B. H. Merrimon; B., W. O., Rankin; M. M. Mcdowell; W. B., W.R., and Mary, Mary A. Baird; Marcus Erwin; John W. and Nicolas Woodfin; James Gudger, George Spears; Albert Summey; A. B. Chunn
Sondley, Dr. F.A.. A History of Buncombe County North Carolina. Asheville: Advocate Printing Company, 1930. Located in both the general and Special Collections of Ramsey Library (F 262 B9.4 S5.8 V.2), Dr. Sondley documented the history of Buncombe County as the title indicates. Of relevance to the Black Highlanders Collection was Dr. Sondley's noting of the slave laws of 1794 in Buncombe County. These laws were designed to control the movements of slaves by appointing slave patrols. Fear of being captured and punished was manifested in a song created by the slaves.
Other Print and Web Resources Bibliography.
"Death Toll At Catholic Hill School May Be Eight Children" The Asheville Citizen, November 17, 1917.
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