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Christine Lajewski posted a blog post

Tribute to Ashley

One of my closest friends, Rachelle, lost her daughter to a canoeing accident on a frigid November night in 2005.  I wrote a poem as a tribute to Ashley, which was later published in Deep Waters, the Tall Grass Writers' Guild 2012 anthology.  As we approach the 9th anniversary of the loss of this lovely young woman, I have posted the poem in my blog at Christine-lajewski.squarespace.com I think any "likes" would be appreciated by Rachelle.  Thank you for reading it.See More
Saturday
Lockie Hunter posted an event
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West End Poetry and Prose reading series: November edition at West End Bakery

November 22, 2014 from 7pm to 9pm
Join us for the 3rd in the West End reading series. This month we have 5 wonderful local authors. This is a marvelous Free family-friendly evening of prose, poetry, and storytelling featuring some of your favorite local Asheville writers. November's lineup includes:Allan Wolf Katey Schultz Matthew Olzmann Melissa Crowe Alli Marshallhosted by Lockie HunterSee More
Nov 20
Rob Neufeld posted a discussion

Ellison's new look at Kephart in Our Southern Highlanders, 3d edition

Ellison retells Kephart and broadens a legacyby Rob Neufeld             One of the most influential people in our region’s history—Horace Kephart, the controversial and fascinating genius of the Great Smokies—has warranted a new consideration by George Ellison, a long-time scholar of Kephart’s life and…See More
Nov 18
Rob Neufeld posted discussions
Nov 15
Spellbound posted an event
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December ROYAL Book Club: Sabriel at Spellbound Children's Bookshop

December 7, 2014 from 4pm to 5pm
ROYAL is Spellbound’s monthly book club for adult Readers of Young Adult Literature. We meet the first Sunday of each month at 4:00PM. Anyone over 18 is welcome, no RSVP necessary. Book club selections are always 20% off until the day of the meeting.See More
Nov 15
City Lights Bookstore posted an event
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Tangible Evidence of Jesus at City Lights Bookstore

December 7, 2014 from 2pm to 3pm
Sylva author, Mary Joyce will present her book Tangible Evidence of Jesus on Sunday, December 7th at 2 p.m. at City Lights Bookstore. Tangible Evidence of Jesus was written after the Joyce plodded through much archaeological evidence and academic research. It is intended to be a bridge between scholarly researchers and most of the rest of us. It also was written for those who would like proof of Jesus beyond what is written in Christian Bibles. The writing style deliberately is condensed and to…See More
Nov 15
Renea Winchester shared City Lights Bookstore's event on Twitter
Nov 13
Renea Winchester is attending City Lights Bookstore's event
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The Charm of a Simple Country Farm at City Lights Bookstore

November 15, 2014 from 3pm to 4:30pm
On Saturday, November 15th at 3 p.m. Renea Winchester will visit City Lights Bookstore to present her new book, Farming Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Decades before the Farm-to-Table and Sustainable Living movement, Billy Albertson started tending a little strip of land just off Hardscrabble Road in what was then rural Roswell, Georgia. The second book in the Farmer Billy series, Farming transports readers to a simpler time, when roadside vegetable stands were common, friends gathered…See More
Nov 13
Renea Winchester posted an event

Author Reading/Book Signing at Great Expectations at Great Expectations Books

November 14, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
Award-winning author, Renea Winchester will read from her latest book titled: Farming, Friends & Friend Bologna Sandwiches (Mercer University Press, October, 2014). The author will also give away seeds courtesy of Botanical Interests Seed CompanySee More
Nov 13
Jerald Pope posted an event

David LaMotte reads from his new book at Monte Vista Hotel

November 20, 2014 from 6pm to 7pm
The Black Mountain Authors Guild presents David LaMotte, a true Black Mountain treasure, signing and reading from his new book, Worldchanging 101, at six o’clock this Thursday, at The Monte Vista Hotel. LaMotte has been a fixture on the local music scene since the early nineties, performing over 2500 concerts nationally and internationally. He has released eleven albums, won international songwriting awards, and earned accolades from the Boston Globe, Washington Times, Soundcheck Magazine…See More
Nov 11
City Lights Bookstore posted events
Nov 5
Doris Anne Beaulieu posted a video

Creative Christmas Tree Videos

I created this video with the YouTube Video Editor (http://www.youtube.com/editor) Share my three youtube channels with family and friend for hours of viewin...
Nov 4
CHARLES C FLETCHER posted a video
Nov 2
Spellbound posted events
Nov 2
Susan Griner posted photos
Oct 31
Bill Ramsey posted an event

7th Annual Blue Ridge Bookfest at Blue Ridge Community College

April 24, 2015 at 1pm to April 25, 2015 at 3pm
Authors interested in being considered for the April 24, 25 2015 event at BRCC should visit www.blueridgebookfest.org soon. Click on the author tab on the home page. Complete the application and submit it by e-mail shown there. While there please sign up for our emailed newsletter.This year we will offer free workshops on Friday afternoon for authors and writer panels ( first time) on Saturday. See More
Oct 30

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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