America continues to have a difficult time facing its past, especially when this requires taking an in-depth look at slavery. Slavery does not comport with our claims about our founding ideals. Thus, when memorializing the past, Americans are more comfortable with images that don’t glaringly highlight the country’s hypocrisy.
Nearly 150 years after the end of the Civil War, one of the era’s most important historical documents was displayed in Western North Carolina for the first time ever.
In Buncombe County, thousands of slaves toiled as cooks, farmers, tour guides, maids, blacksmiths, tailors, miners, farmers, road builders and more, local records show. And after mostly ignoring that troubled history for a century and a half, the county is now taking groundbreaking steps to honor the contributions of those former residents by making its slave records readily available online.
The Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office has opened an exhibit to commemorate the 150-year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and to remember those who were enslaved and their immeasurable contributions to our community. Along with the exhibit, the county has produced a short documentary, Forever Free, which features historians and descendants of slaves speaking on the significance of these records and the importance of acknowledging our past. Watch it here.