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Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Interview with Isaac Coleman, 2011

A 2011 interview with the late activist, Isaac Coleman by Rob NeufeldCivil rights activist and local civic leader Isaac Coleman, born Nov. 6, 1943 in Lexington, Ky., lived his last 44 years in Asheville, and died on May 10, 2016,.We talked in 2011 about his career, starting with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. Q:  Was the SNCC your first involvement in civil rights? A:   I was a student at Knoxville College, an African-American College in Knoxville, Tennessee, and…See More
Sunday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Stories by the River Benefit for Girls Rock Asheville at Ole Shakeys 790 Riverside Drive in AVL

May 21, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Sip a drink by the river and enjoy stories and songs on a warm spring day!All donations benefit Girls Rock Asheville!Stories read by:Lori Horvitz  Melanie McGee Bianchi  Kim Winter Mako  Ky Delaney  and Lockie Huntermusical guests Leo+VirgoSee More
May 18
Sue Diehl posted an event
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Montreat College Friends of the Library Annual Luncheon at Montreat College, Gaither Fellowship Hall

June 4, 2016 from 12pm to 2pm
Author Susan S. Kelly will the speaker at Montreat College Friends of the Library annual luncheon at noon on Saturday, June 4, 2016.  She is the author of five novels and a major contributing author to Our State Magazine.Call 828-669-8012 Ext. 3502 for Reservations.  $16.00See More
May 17
Sheilah Jastrzebski replied to Rob Neufeld's discussion The history of Oakley
"This is an interesting article.  It gives a few clues to the neighborhood I imagine from the old days. The woman from who my husband and I bought our Oakley home, Melody,  always talks about "Mr. Wilson" who entrusted her with…"
May 16
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

The history of Oakley

Oakley is a place with an unforgettable historyby Rob NeufeldAn earlier time PHOTO CAPTION: The Taylor family of Oakley: Jean, Virgil, Sadie Louise, and Dan, c. 1936.  Photo courtesy Dan Taylor.            “We had hobos come to our house, and my mother would never turn them away,” Dan Taylor says of his experience…See More
May 13
Rob Neufeld posted blog posts
May 13
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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Juniper Bends quarterly poetry and prose reading at Downtown Books and News

May 6, 2016 from 7pm to 9pm
Join your fellow literature-craving citizens at the next upcoming Juniper Bends reading on Friday May 6th at 7PM. We will be luxuriating in sound, soaking up nutritious poetry & prose after the dark winter. Our series aims to bring together both established and emerging writers, and we are honored to bring together Gary Hawkins, Catherine Campbell, Stephanie Johnson and Michael Pittard's collective word-magic for this lovely spring evening. As usual, our generous host site is Downtown Books…See More
May 3
Jack Underwood shared a profile on Facebook
May 3
Rob Neufeld commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Edwin, some are touched by the Holy Spirit, and find voice to our amazement.  Yet there are many who are not heard, no matter how much we'd like to hear.  How will you amaze? "
May 2
Edwin Ammons commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"Do none consider that a greater power has designed all this and that all these recent discoveries are a tiny part of it? von Humboldt will not rise from the dust until I do and I am still upright so he must wait. Upon that eventful day it will be…"
May 2
Joe Epley posted a blog post

Military Writers Society of America

Joe Epley recently was elected to Board of Directors of the Military Writers Society of America.  The MWSA has around 700 members around the country. Details on the website: http://www.mwsadispatches.com.  ; The organization's purpose is to help military service members, veterans, their families, supporters of the military,and historians record history and the complexities of military life--and encourage writing as therapy. The…See More
May 1
susannah eanes commented on Rob Neufeld's blog post The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1
"So chuffed about this! Sadly, I won't be there except in spirit. Andrea Wulf is a force of nature, herself. Her amazing work The Brother Gardeners should be made into a feature-length film - the characters live and breathe again between the…"
Apr 30
Evelyn Asher updated their profile
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld posted a blog post

The Invention of Nature, an inspiring book--author Andrea Wulf at Malaprop's May 1

Author of key book of our times comes to AshevilleAndrea Wulf makes Malaprop's Bookstore one her stops, Sun., May 1, 5 p.m., in talking about her thrilling work of non-fiction, The Invention of Nature: Alexander von…See More
Apr 30
Rob Neufeld's discussion was featured

Salman Rushdie 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
Apr 25
Julia Nunnally Duncan updated their profile
Apr 25

Will Harris, race relations, and Thomas Wolfe--eye-opening programs

Harris murders and Wolfe story inspire look at race in Asheville

by Rob Neufeld

 

            In the anthology, “Race in Appalachia,” African-American scholar Darin Water notes, John Inscoe, the editor, “points out that, although we’ve had increasingly more research done recently on African-Americans in Southern Appalachia, the one thing that is missing are their voices.”

            One of the places where some of their voices do emerge is in a pubic repudiation of the murders committed by Will Harris, a black man who, on Nov. 13, 1906, killed five men around Pack Square, fled, and died in a posse’s barrage.

            The incident haunted Thomas Wolfe, who struggled for years with how to present it as, in the view of Wolfe scholars, his awareness of race relations matured.

            When “The Saturday Evening Post” published “The Child by Tiger,” Wolfe’s story based on the event, in its Sept. 11, 1937 issue, “a thrilled Wolfe danced around like a wet Russian bear,” notes Joanne Marshall Mauldin, author of “Thomas Wolfe: When Do the Atrocities Begin?” and other Wolfe books.

“Often they would turn and come again,” Wolfe’s narrator says of the characters involved in the tragedy, “these faces and these voices of the past, and burn there in my memory.”

            The African-American community does not talk much about Will Harris, Waters says.  Its leaders at the time published a resolution that “commend(ed) our white fellow citizens for the absence of any and everything that could suggest in the least degree feelings against us as a race.”

            Asheville, a tourist town, played down fears.

            It seems to have been a missed opportunity, in some ways, for, as Wolfe illustrated, Harris, whose fictional representation he named Dick Prosser, reflected the unbearable pressure put upon African-Americans seeking dignity, as with Richard Wright’s “Native Son.”

            Waters and Mauldin address the stories and the Asheville context of Harris and Prosser in a series of programs at the YMI and Thomas Wolfe Memorial, Nov.27 and Nov. 29.

 

What we know

 

            Karen Loughmiller, organizer of the program for Buncombe County Libraries, has discovered that someone named Will Harris, not long before the shooting spree, had filed a suit against Hans Rees Tannery in Asheville for non-payment of wages.

            It is not known if that is the same Will Harris.  If it had been, it would have marked him as a trouble-maker in the racial climate of the day. 

            Oral history adds more.  Waters has talked with “Urban News” publisher Johnnie Grant, and “she had heard, growing up, that Will Harris may have been like the character Thomas Wolfe creates…a former military man.”  Black soldiers “came back from fighting wars for democracy and freedom and recognized that they didn’t have that here.”

            Bob Terrell, in his book, “The Will Harris Murders,” identifies Harris as an escapee from a convict work gang, who had come to Asheville from Charlotte, and gotten drunk over a girl.

            Loughmiller points out that we don’t even know if the man whose bullet-riddled body was displayed in a South Main Street funeral home had been Will Harris.  There had been no trial.

            We do know that an African-American man walked from an Eagle Street house to Pack Square and killed five people, including police officer Charles Blackstock and patrolman James Bailey.   And we do know that African-American leaders distanced themselves from the horror at a time when hate-crimes against black citizens were common occurrences.

 

What they knew

 

            Around the time of the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898, in which many African-Americans were killed, the Asheville Citizen published a political cartoon featuring a vampire-like African-American demon bearing down on a cringing white woman.

            In 1900, in New Orleans, a posse hunted and gunned down Robert Charles, who’d killed a police officer in self-defense, according to current accounts, after the officer had begun rousting Charles, a black man, from a stoop in a white neighborhood.

            Two months before the Will Harris murders, several African-Americans were killed in the Atlanta Race Riots, fomented by a gubernatorial campaign which sought to disenfranchise black voters and that broadcast stories of rape of white women by black men.

            “Some of dese days yo’all gwine be free, just like de white folks,” an old woman told Old Fort slave Sarah Gudger on their plantation before the Civil War.  Gudger at age 121 recorded her story for the Federal Writers’ Project in 1937.

            “But we all laugh at her,” Gudger related.  “No, we just slaves,” she said, “We always have to work and never be free.”

 

Bringing it up to date

 

            The disillusionment that has followed Emancipation, Reconstruction, world wars, and Civil Rights has been fierce for African-Americans, Waters affirms.

            Isolation and invisibility in the Asheville community remains a strategy for African-Americans in the wake or urban renewal and in the context of disproportionate arrest rates, poverty levels, unemployment, low-wage employment, and high school dropout rates.

            “Survival mechanisms can become impediments,” Waters notes.

            Great-grandson, on his father’s side, of a freeman from Edneyvillle; grandson, on his mother’s side, of Burton Street world travelers, Waters, born and raised in Shiloh, had laid low at T.C. Roberson High School.  “I was invisible,” he says.

            It wasn’t until he attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and N.C. State University, where he got his Masters degree, that he began developing his interest in the social, economic, and political development of the black community in Asheville.

            “Life beneath the Veneer” is the title of his Ph.D. thesis, completed at UNC Chapel Hill, with the encouragement of Harry Watson, Director of the Center for the Study of the American South, and the late John Hope Franklin, author of “From Slavery to Freedom.”

            At the graduation ceremonies this May, Waters relates, “there was (an African-American) family from Memphis, Tenn. who was there to see their daughter receive her Ph.D. in chemistry.  They waited outside the Dean Smith Center because they wanted to meet me.  They said, ‘We just want to know if you saw what we saw today.  You were the only African-American male (out of about 300 graduates) to get a Ph.D., and we just want to congratulate you for that.”

            Waters had felt guilt pursuing his achievement, for it took him away from his wife and two sons, but now feels that he has done for his sons “what my grandparents created for me.”

 

PHOTO CAPTION

Scholars Joanne Mauldin and Darin Waters at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.  Courtesy Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

 

LEARN MORE

“Race, Truth, and Fiction in Thomas Wolfe’s ‘The Child by Tiger,” features Dr. Darin Waters of the History Department at UNCA presenting “African-American Survival Strategies in Asheville.” 6:30 p.m., Nov. 27, at the YMI Cultural Center; and Wolfe scholar Joanne Mauldin presenting “Thomas Wolfe and Race:  An Unfound Door?” 6:30 p.m., Nov. 29 at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

Free copies of “The Child by Tiger” are available at Buncombe County Public Libraries and at The Thomas Wolfe Memorial.

The Thomas Wolfe Memorial hosts a Reader’s Theatre production of “The Child by Tiger,” Thursday.  Tickets are $5.00 and can be picked up at the Memorial.  A related exhibit is also on display.

The reading and discussion series, sponsored by Buncombe County Public Libraries and The Thomas Wolfe Memorial, has been made possible in part by a grant from the NC Humanities Council, a statewide non-profit and an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Additional sponsors of the programs include The YMI, The Friends of Mountain History, and The Urban News.

For more information, call the library at 250-4740.

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