Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, NC.

African Americans in WNC and Southern Appalachia Conference

The fifth annual Conference offers scholars and the community an opportunity to broaden their understanding of the African American experience in Southern Appalachia.

The three-day event, held from October 18-20, will feature a variety of topics, including race in education, social justice, and history, while highlighting regional African American culture, with a theme of “Making the Invisible Visible.”

“The African Americans in Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia Conference is not only important but necessary and vital to the reclaiming of a narrative that gets lost, has not been shared or taught, and has become invisible to so many. That narrative states that the contributions and rich history of African Americans still matters and will forever contribute to the vitality, the heartbeat, and the story of our region,” said Lakesha McDay, director of diversity, inclusion, and health equity at Mission Health and a conference committee member.

“Participating in the African Americans in WNC and Southern Appalachia Conference is supporting and acknowledging the resilience of a people in spite of the many injustices that have occurred in the country and this region for generations. The strength, perseverance, and grit of African Americans is a continuous thread since kidnapped and brought to this land. It is woven into the cultural fabric and demonstrated on a daily basis,” said Kimberlee Archie, equity & inclusion manager for the City of Asheville, and also a conference committee member.

“I am very excited about UNC Asheville’s Fifth Annual African American in WNC and Southern Appalachia Conference, as it continues to support the efforts of our community to preserve, acknowledge, and educate people about our enriched Western Carolina history,” said Rasheeda McDaniels, Buncombe County community engagement supervisor, who also serves on the conference committee.

Nina Simone was the Valedictorian of Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, NC.

Conference Highlights

Each year, the African Americans in Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia Conference opens with a reception at the YMI Cultural Center, featuring the Jesse & Julia Ray Lecture.

Conference activities are free and open to everyone with advance registration requested at or by calling (828) 255-7219. The conference will begin with an opening reception on Thursday, Oct. 18 at the YMI Cultural Center, continue on Oct. 19-20 with scholarly presentations and community panels at UNC Asheville, and conclude with an awards night at The Collider on Saturday, Oct. 20.

A brunch in celebration of Asheville’s Allen High School and Nina Simone will be held on Saturday morning, and an exhibit of historic photographs from the school will be on display in UNC Asheville’s Ramsey Library through Oct. 31. The exhibit is co-sponsored by Special Collections at UNC Asheville and the W.L. Eury Appalachian Collection at Appalachian State University and is free and open to the public during regular library hours.

Allen High School for Girls in Asheville, NC.

On the schedule this year are a roundtable discussion on Crafting Affrilachia, in partnership with The Center for Craft and led by Marie T. Cochran, founder of the Affrilachian Artist Project; black-owned business panels and exhibits in partnership with Mountain BizWorks; a performance in tribute to Jacob Lawrence at the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center; and an announcement of The City of Asheville Visiting Artist. The CoThinkk Awards Night at The Collider returns, along with the Jesse and Julia Ray Lecture, given by Appalachian studies scholar William H. Turner.

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