Zebulon Vance was an influential Southern leader of the Civil War.

Zebulon B. Vance Reconsidered

Zebulon Vance was an influential Southern leader of the Civil War.

UNC Asheville and Vance Birthplace State Historic Site present a symposium examining Vance’s complicated legacy.

UNC Asheville’s Department of History and the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site will present a two-day symposium, Zebulon B. Vance Reconsidered, September 14 & 15, 2017. The symposium, which has been in the planning stages for almost a year, will take place as the region and the nation discuss and debate the fate of the many monuments to Confederate-era figures like Vance.

The Zebulon B. Vance Reconsidered symposium is free and open to the public, but tickets are required for the symposium events at UNC Asheville. Seating capacity is limited and each symposium event is ticketed separately. To get tickets in advance, visit www.eventbrite.com/e/zebulon-b-vance-reconsidered-symposium-tickets-37460362954. No backpacks will be allowed and bags will be checked at the door.

The symposium will begin with a keynote address by Yale University historian David Blight at 7 p.m. on Thursday, September 14 in UNC Asheville’s Lipinsky Auditorium. On Friday, September 15, 2017, two events will take place in UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center Mountain View Room, a 10 a.m. panel discussion with historians Gordon McKinney, Joe Mobley, Steve Nash, and Darin Waters, and a 2 p.m. talk, Vance in Fiction, by novelist Sharyn McCrumb.

The symposium will conclude with a reception from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Friday, September 15, 2017 at the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Western Office, with the opening of an exhibit of photos by Brenda Scott of scenes from the Vance Birthplace that depict life on a mountain homestead.

Vance, who served as a Confederate officer and then as North Carolina’s governor during the Civil War, was imprisoned after the war. Later pardoned, he practiced as an attorney, and then became governor again and then U.S. Senator. Commemorated with statues, monuments and historical sites, including the Vance Monument in downtown Asheville, and the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site near Weaverville, N.C., Vance’s legacy is now being re-examined and debated.

“The heated debate we see now over Vance and others from his era is a natural development in our nation’s history—it was past moments like this that led to construction of many of the monuments now being reconsidered,” said historian Dan Pierce, UNC Asheville’s National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Professor and co-convener of the symposium. “I am glad to see the importance of history come to the fore, and with this symposium, we hope to present historical context and facts to help inform and advance the public debate.”

“Zebulon Vance was a prominent figure in our state for four decades, and his is the story of both a hero and scoundrel,” said symposium co-convener Kimberly Floyd, site manager of the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site, which is administered by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

“It is not our job to tell the public what they should think about Zebulon Vance. It is our job to present facts and context that illuminates the connections between places and through time. We hope to bring the community together, and create a safe space where we can all learn and encourage discussion and understanding.”

Symposium Events

Keynote by David Blight

Thursday, September 14, 2017, 7 p.m. at UNC Asheville’s Lipinsky Auditorium. Yale University Professor of History David Blight also is the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale. A leading scholar of the Civil War and Reconstruction era, Blight is a past president of the Society of American Historians and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Blight’s many books include Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, which won eight book awards and four awards from the Organization of American Historians; and the monograph, American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era, which received the 2012 Anisfield-Wolf Award for best book in non-fiction on racism and human diversity.

He has served on many boards and advisory boards, including those of the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, the National Civil War Center at Tredegar in Richmond, Va., and the board for African American Programs at Monticello in Charlottesville, Va. Blight’s lectures for his Yale University course, The Civil War and Reconstruction Era, are available online at oyc.yale.edu/history/hist-119.

Panel Discussion

The Complicated Legacy of Zebulon VanceFriday, September 15, 2017, 10 a.m.-noon at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center, Mountain View Room. Historians Gordon McKinney, Joe Mobley, Steve Nash, and Darin Waters will be the panelists.

Gordon McKinney is the author of Zeb Vance: North Carolina’s Civil War Governor & Gilded Age Political Leader. A former director of the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College, the now retired McKinney received the 2014 Outstanding Achievement Award from the WNC Historical Association.

Joe Mobley is the author of eight books on North Carolina history including War Governor of the South: North Carolina’s Zeb Vance in the Confederacy. Now retired, Mobley taught history at NC State and Louisburg College and served as editor-in-chief of North Carolina Historical Review.

Steve Nash, associate professor of history at East Tennessee State University, is the author of Reconstruction’s Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Southern Mountains, winner of the Appalachian Studies Association’s Weatherford Award.

Darin Waters, assistant professor of history at UNC Asheville, has studied and written about the historical memory of North Carolina events and people in the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. He is the co-host of The Waters and Harvey Show on Blue Ridge Public Radio, and is convener of the annual African Americans in Western North Carolina Conference which will take place October 19-21, 2017.

Note: Questions from the audience may be submitted on paper at this event, and selected questions will be discussed by the panelists after their opening presentations.

Other Events

Vance in Fiction, a talk by novelist Sharyn McCrumb – Friday, September 15, 2017, 2-2:45 p.m. at UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center, Mountain View Room. Zebulon Vance often appears as a character in the novels of Sharyn McCrumb, New York Times best-selling author known for her Appalachian “ballad” novels celebrating the land and history of the mountain South. She was the winner of the 2014 Hobson Prize for Southern Literature.

Reception and opening of the exhibition, The Mountains Are Calling: At Home in Western North CarolinaFriday, September 15, 2017, 4:30-6:30 p.m. at the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Western Office, 176 Riceville Rd., Asheville. This exhibition of photos by Brenda Scott uses scenes of the Vance Birthplace to explore the many facets of early life on a homestead in the mountains of North Carolina. No tickets required.

For more information, contact the UNC Asheville Department of History, history@unca.edu or (828) 251-6415, or the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site, vance@ncdcr.gov, or (828) 645.6706.


06:3620:17 EDT
Feels like: 75°F
Wind: 11mph S
Humidity: 51%
Pressure: 30.17"Hg
UV index: 0
min 60°F