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Salman Rushdie come to Asheville with new novel

Atheist believes in genies, novel revealsby Rob Neufeld             Salman Rushdie’s latest novel—“Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights” (1,001 nights)—has permitted me to come up with a headline as wild as the one above because the book is so exuberantly and infectiously…See More
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73 classic works about Appalachia going online

Key Appalachian studies publications now going onlinefrom press release, Jan. 27. 2016 Appalachian studies scholars and those interested in regional history will have greater access to out-of-print works thanks to a two-year National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Open Book Program grant totaling $88,000 awarded to Belk Library and Information Commons at Appalachian State University.  Pamela Mitchem, the library’s coordinator of digital scholarship and…See More
Jan 30
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

John Parris' home-grown prose

South of Sylva, back of yesterday: John Parris' inspiration             “For the life of me, I just can’t understand why folks stopped usin’ cradles,” John Parris’ 97-year-old maternal grandfather had told him 60 years ago.            The oil lamp, the buggy, and the spinning wheel—they all were replaced by things…See More
Jan 27
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James Sturm expands scope of graphic novels

James Sturm blazes cartoon path to a new worldby Rob Neufeld             Why is it that when an author combines pictures with words, the medium is considered juvenile, like comics?  Words create literature; images, art.  Why, when you marry them, is it like pairing a milk cow with a mop?            Nothing against…See More
Jan 24
susannah eanes posted a blog post

The Writer as Pilgrim

Two articles leapt at my consciousness this week, both about writing. And suddenly, I know how to go forward from here. The first, The Price I Pay to Write, by Laura Bogart and published online in Dame Magazine, reflects on the difficulties of…See More
Jan 24
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Tired of thrillers with no soul?

Why read a 1940 man-on-the-run classicby Rob Neufeld             After reading a classic novel, you might think, “Oh, look at this superior ancestor of today’s fiction.”              For instance, “The Power and the Glory,” Graham Greene’s 1940 thriller about political oppression in Mexico, exemplifies the…See More
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Art of Grace by Sarah Kaufman

Dance critic applies grace to every moveby Rob Neufeld             It’s nice to find just the right word for something, especially when it sums up a main idea in your way of thinking.            That was the case with Sarah Kaufman when she’d first felt moved, nine years ago, to write her new book, “The Art of Grace” (W.W.…See More
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Fire and Ice Roses interview with author/gardening blogger Kathryn Hall

Fire and Ice Roses has been interviewing gardening bloggers and gardening experts and were kind enough to include this short interview recently which was quite fun and very much appreciated! http://fireandiceroses.com/ask-an-expert-kathryn-hall/See More
Jan 5
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History in the making, January 2, 2016

History in the making: items of note, January 2, 2016It was reported in today’s print edition of the Asheville Citizen-Times that a new state law went into effect, requiring people who’ve filed for unemployment benefits to make at least 5 job contacts a week.  It had been 2.  How will that work?  Are there that many jobs for which a person is qualified?  Can you apply to the same job twice if it continues to be listed? Paul Bonesteel, noted Asheville filmmaker, revealed on Facebook that a…See More
Jan 2
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Local event of the day, Jan 1 2016

Tarantino, eminent domain, and emancipation Tarantino comes to townQuentin Tarantino’s New Year’s gore and gabfest, The Hateful Eight, is gutted by New Yorker reviewer Anthony Lane, who says that Tarantino toys with rather than explores history, using it “for boyish fantasies of revenge, as if enormous crimes could be undone, after the event, by lone and wanton acts of humiliation.” …See More
Jan 1

Unsung hero emerges in story of McDowell County integration

by Rob Neufeld

 

            When five  Old Fort black children—Richard and Norma Greenlee; Thomas Lowder; Audrey Logan; and Teresa Murphy—went to integrate Old Fort Elementary School, August 24, 1955, they stood alone.   Their three adult escorts had backed out, apparently, but Albert Joyner was watching from his window.

            “I wasn’t involved,” Joyner said.  “I came here from the eastern part of the state.  And if you weren’t born here, you were an outsider."   He had come in 1952 to work at the Oteen VA Hospital.                  

            But he says, “The Lord took my hand” that morning.  Joyner looked out his window and saw that the black adults who were supposed to escort the children weren’t there with them.  Joyner put on his best suit and went out to lead the children to the schoolhouse doors.

            “There wasn’t nothing but white,” Joyner recalled in an August 2009 interview with Kim Clark of the McDowell County Oral History Project.  Hundreds of white police officers and citizens thronged the approach.  The county school superintendent, Melvin Taylor, met Joyner on the steps.

            “Integration would not be begun this year,” Taylor said.  Yes, the Supreme Court had ruled that schools must be integrated “with all deliberate speed,” but the state legislature had directed schools to stay racially separate until issues could be worked out in court.

            In the meantime, young black children, whose school had been controversially demolished in 1950, were being transported to Marion.

            Black people had great reason to live in fear of white people, Joyner elaborated.  Two men who had intended to escort the children, but didn’t, were fired from their factory jobs.   Black men who, in the past, had bought new cars, had been fired for what was considered a transgression.. 

            “You get what they have,” Joyner said, referring to white folks, your employers told you, “‘We don’t need you.’”

            “You had to be under them,” Joyner added.  “Yeah, that’s how it was,” he said in a refrain.

            Whereas Joyner had a bank account in Pendleton, he couldn’t get one in McDowell County.  Black folks used the post office for banking, Joyner said.

            If a black person stepped out of line, Joyner related, “they’d have shot you in the foot, or something.  Nobody would have said anything, and if they had, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere.”

            Joyner learned from a man whose grass he cut that some black folks had offered to take care of Joyner for being a trouble-maker at the school.  “No, no need of doing that,” an official had responded.

            “That’s the way it was then,” Joyner intoned.

            When the black students’ case went to court, Joyner was the one who represented them, standing with their lawyer appeal after appeal.  It would take several years for McDowell County schools to be fully integrated.

            Not long after his initial stand, Joyner was taking his sister to the bus stop in Old Fort when, the oral history project reports,  a “white railroad worker, W.W. Arney, said some harsh words to Mr. Joyner and knocked him into the fountain.”

            “I got beat up bad,” Joyner said.  “The police came out there and asked, what did I try to start…I called the sheriff, and he said he’d be up there in the morning.  I said I might not need him then.  I might be dead…That’s what that place was.  They (African Americans) were scared.”

            The coda to this story inspired people at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Prayer Breakfast last month, when Buncombe County Commission Chair David Gantt related what he’d learned from his assistant, Ellen Pfirrmann, Oral History Project partner of Kim Clark.

            “In a touching postscript, years later,” Gantt said, “Mr. Arney was a patient at the VA Hospital.  And…his nurse was Albert Joyner. 

            “I didn’t get mad at nobody,” Joyner recalled. 

            Arney had lost his leg in a car accident, and “I treated him nice,” Joyner said.  One time, he asked Arney who it was who had tried to take those kids into the school—for Arney didn’t recognize him—and Arney said, “It’s nothing really important now.”

            The policeman who had been at the scene of the assault on Joyner also became a patient at the hospital.  Joyner took care of him on a number of occasions, often involving the messiest jobs. 

            Dying, the policeman wanted to give Joyner money, but Joyner declined.  “I want you to have it,” the sick man insisted.  “And I took it,” Joyner confessed.  “I didn’t know what he was thinking.”

            After the policeman’s death, Joyner went into a filling station, where he discovered that the policeman’s wife wanted to give him free gas.

            “His wife came out and said, ‘We’ll take no money from him,’” Joyner related.  “So I wouldn’t go there anymore.  It (the offering)  wasn’t obligated  to me.  The Lord took him,” meaning it was all in His hands.

 

BOX

To learn more about The McDowell County History Project go to mcdowellhistory.com.  The project is looking to use the Joyner material to create an exhibit and archive that could be housed in the International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro.  David Gantt will be make a presentation about Albert Joyner at Hill St. Baptist Church, Asheville, 10 a.m., Feb. 13, 2011.

 

PHOTO CAPTION

“Look” magazine published the documentary photo (above) of Joyner with Richard Greenlee and Thomas Lowder, two of the five African American children trying to enter Old Fort Elementary School, Aug. 24, 1955.  The man with the cane is Col. Daniel Adams, a local inventor who supported the black community and sought redress for the destruction of its school.

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