Reparations for Land Taken from the Black Community

Take the survey about Urban Renewal land.

Nantahala Hotel on Depot St. in Asheville’s Southside neighborhood. Photo: Special Collections, Ramsey Library, UNC Asheville.
Urban renewal destroyed African American churches, schools, and businesses, including the Nantahala Hotel on Depot St. in Asheville’s Southside neighborhood. Photo: Special Collections, Ramsey Library, UNC Asheville.

Local researcher Priscilla Ndiaye Robinson, MSML, led a powerful presentation at the March 20, 2023 Community Reparations Commission (CRC) meeting.

Her team documented what happened to the hundreds of acres of land seized in the Southside neighborhood by the City of Asheville in the 1960s, one of several projects that destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses in the Black community.

Measuring the Impact of Urban Renewal

It turns out that most of the seized Southside urban renewal land was sold at rock bottom prices to real estate developers, who saw an opportunity to reap massive benefits for themselves. And they have: the value of that land increased over the ensuing decades by as much as 1000%.

This adds devastating detail to the deep injustice of this chapter of local history, and underscores why both Asheville and Buncombe County publicly apologized and promised amends for their complicity in urban renewal when they passed their 2020 Reparations resolutions.

To better understand the history of urban renewal, review the City’s Story Map page (tinyurl.com/5aey49m6), which summarizes this history and impact. Also check out the Urban Renewal Impact website (urbanrenewalimpact.org) developed by Priscilla Ndiaye Robinson, MSML.

In their 2020 Reparations Resolutions, both the City of Asheville and Buncombe County declared that they “apologize to the Black community and seek to make amends for (their) participation in an urban renewal program that harmed multiple, successful black communities.”

In 2020, the Asheville City Council passed a moratorium on selling any of their remaining properties in anticipation of forthcoming recommendations from the CRC. In fact, there is a draft recommendation working its way through the CRC that calls for all of the land taken from the Black community to be returned. Do you agree that this should happen?

For the Reparations Commission’s process to succeed, it’s important for community members to support their critical work. We have an opportunity right now to offer the CRC valuable feedback and show that our region’s commitment to reparations remains strong. Fill out the survey today; it takes less than five minutes to complete.

Complete the survey at rjcavl.org/land-reparations.