Crossroads – a look at Asheville’s historic black neighborhoods

In the Fall of 2010, the North Carolina Humanities Council published Crossroads, which took a close look at East End, South Side, Stumptown and Hill Street & Burton Street. These were once thriving communities, often built around areas where during segregation African Americans of Asheville lived in small areas with local churches, schools, and businesses and community organizations.

Asheville was one of many cities across the United States that participated in urban renewal, part of a national effort during the 1950s through the 1970s
to improve so-called blighted areas of cities. in theory, urban renewal would enhance the landscape of cities and provide displaced residents model housing. in practice, however, many rich and vibrant communities of color were flattened throughout the United States. replacing these neighborhoods were wide roadways, highways, and new multi-story build- ings. residents, some of whom were homeowners, were either relegated to substandard public housing or forced to relocate elsewhere. (Page 1, Crossroads)

As we look at Asheville today and seek answers to how we got here and how we must move forward, we can’t help but look at the trauma caused to the black community by the forced removal of these neighborhoods. We can’t go back in time, nor would we want to go back to the days of segregation. Desegregation removed painful barriers to upward mobility, even as it took away a built-in customer base for many black businesses. While we don’t have some of the same thriving neighborhoods that once were part of Asheville, we now have new and powerful tools for networking and can “vote with our dollars” to support Asheville’s black businesses.

If you aren’t familiar with this history, please read Crossroads, and learn about the amazing history of Asheville’s black citizens.

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