African Americans in WNC

UNC Asheville Assistant Professor of History Darin Waters speaking at the YMI Cultural Center. Photo: UNC Asheville

The fourth annual “African Americans in WNC and South Appalachia” conference will be held Oct. 19-21, 2017, at the YMI Cultural Center, UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center, and The Collider.

Conference activities are free and open to everyone, and include an opening reception on Oct. 19, panel discussions on Oct. 20-21, and an awards night on Oct. 21. The theme of this year’s conference is “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.”

“We are excited to host the fourth annual African Americans in Western North Carolina this year,” said conference organizer Darin Waters, assistant professor of history at UNC Asheville. “Each year the conference has not only grown, but has demonstrated the ongoing interest in understanding the historical experiences and contributions of African Americans to Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia.

“What makes this year’s conference even more exciting is that in addition to history, conference participants will also receive an assessment of the current state of affairs within the region’s African American communities and hear about the ways that these communities are using their histories to meet existing challenges and further stimulate community resilience.”

The conference starts at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 19, with an opening reception at the YMI Cultural Center at 39 South Market Street in Asheville, featuring the Jesse & Julia Ray Lecture. This year’s keynote speaker is Judge Yvonne Mims Evans.

Evans is a judge for the 26th Judicial District of the Seventh Division of the Superior Court, serving Mecklenburg County (Charlotte). She was appointed by former Governor Mike Easley in 2003 and re-elected in 2012; her current term expires in 2020. A native of Hendersonville, Evans attended the 9th Street School and later the Allen School in Asheville.

That evening a community achievement award will be presented to Shirley Whitesides, program director of Delta House Life Development of Asheville Inc.

The conference returns to UNC Asheville’s campus on Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21 with panel discussions beginning at 9 a.m. each day in the Wilma M. Sherrill Center.

In addition to presentations examining African American history, the conference will highlight research from UNC Asheville’s State of Black Asheville classes led by Professor of Political Science Dwight Mullen. Innovative local groups demonstrating African American and Latino community resilience will also be featured.

For more information, contact UNC Asheville Department of History at (828) 251-6415 or


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