Around Town: Blog series details jobs of Asheville Black women in 1890

HISTORY LESSON: An unidentified white family in Asheville is shown with a Black domestic servant. Photo courtesy of Buncombe County Special Collections

While researching the lives of Asheville’s first five Black public school teachers, local historian Zoe Rhine got to wondering what other professions were available to the city’s African American women in 1890.

“I was trying to get a better understanding of the Black community in Asheville at this time,” says Rhine, who had retired as Special Collections librarian for the Buncombe County Public Libraries back in 2020. “It turned into a deep dive, which I loved every minute of.”

The result of that research is now available in a five-part series, “Occupations of Black Women in Asheville, 1890,” posted on HeardTell, the Special Collections’ blog. In the posts, Rhine and co-author Louise Maret look at such professions as maids, cooks, laundresses and nurses, using information found in the 1890 city directory and elsewhere.

“It didn’t matter to me how long it took to count the number of Black women in each profession,” Rhine says. “And I often did the counting two and three times to make sure I was being as accurate as I could.”

Rhine says Black women’s arduous, low-wage domestic labor provided foundations for many white Asheville households, while taking a heavy toll on the women’s lives. And little information has been gathered on them by historians and researchers.

“Today, much inequality remains in Asheville between the Black and white communities,” Rhine says. “I truly believe that the situation today cannot be understood without knowing the history. What was life like in Asheville for the first generation of Blacks out of slavery and after Reconstruction?”

To read the blog series, visit avl.mx/bc3

Give peace a chance

The Grey Eagle will team up with local musician Andrew Scotchie to present a concert in support of the people of Ukraine on Friday, March 18, at 8 p.m.

“Asheville for Peace, Asheville for Ukraine” will feature performances by Scotchie, Logan Fritz,  Dave Desmelik, Lo WolfAshley Heath, members of Empire Strikes Brass and more.

Proceeds from the show will help the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, UNICEF and International Medical Corps as they support people in Ukraine and refugees fleeing the war-torn nation following the Feb. 24 invasion by Russia.

“Perhaps one of Asheville’s greatest gifts to the world is its eclectic music community and the compassion of its members,” says Scotchie, frontman of the blues-rock band Andrew Scotchie & the River Rats.

Tickets for the all-ages show are $10, but people can donate additional money. For more information and to buy tickets, go to avl.mx/bca.

School picture day

Heather South had never heard of Black Mountain College prior to moving to WNC in 2012, where she now heads the Western Regional Archives, a branch of the state archives. But she quickly became familiar with its rich history.

The experimental college was founded in 1933 and operated in Black Mountain by a group of academics led by John Andrew Rice. Known for its progressive arts-based curriculum, early racial integration and liberal takes on gender and sexuality, the college closed in 1957.

“From the very start of the WRA, our Black Mountain College collections have remained the most requested and used materials we have,” she says. “Being the archivist and getting to work with so many different types of researchers is such a unique opportunity. I get the chance to see the college through all these different approaches and viewpoints.”

South will present “Exploring Black Mountain College’s History through Archival Photographs” Monday, March 21, 6-7:15 p.m., at the Black Mountain Public Library. The lecture is part of the The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center’s History Café series.

During the presentation, South will give an overview of the BMC collections at the WRA and share some of the most recognizable images of the college as well as some lesser-known ones.

“For example, everyone loves Buckminster Fuller and the story of the geodesic dome,” she says of the legendary inventor and futurist. “We have images from his two summers on campus. He was known for a two-hour-a-day sleep pattern to maximize his working time, but we have a great photo of him napping.”

The lecture also will include photos of Ruth Asawa, a renowned sculptor and educator, working as a barber at the college.

“The interest in Black Mountain College continues to grow because I think we all wish we could have been there,” South says.

For more information or to register for the lecture, go to avl.mx/bc4.

Take care of yourself

In honor of Women’s History Month, local artist Jenny Kiehn is giving away 5-by-5-inch prints from her Rejuvenate collection. The art emphasizes the need for women to practice self-care, she says.

“In deciding to take this approach, I thought a lot about why I make art in the first place,” Kiehn explains. “I have a personal creative drive, but ultimately, I want to get positive messages out in the world. My hope is that if I can get my art in as many women’s homes as possible, then I can make the greatest possible impact.”

The Rejuvenate collection is made up of pen-and-ink drawings of hibernating animals. Kiehn drew them with a quill pen dipped in India ink.

“Having artwork on the wall sets an intentional atmosphere to enable women to change their thinking,” she says. “Having the hibernating animals there to remind you that it’s completely natural to prioritize yourself smooths the way to gaining a more healthy mindset.”

While Kiehn aims to help women, she says anyone who believes they can benefit from the art is welcome to have it.

To view the Rejuvenate collection or to get a free print, go to avl.mx/bc8.

Mountain music

Tickets are now on sale for the Cold Mountain Music Festival, scheduled for Saturday, June 4, at Lake Logan in Canton. The festival was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.

Headlining the event is alt-country/indie folk band Hiss Golden Messenger. The lineup will also feature the Futurebirds, The Mother Hips, Chatham Rabbits and I Draw Slow. There also will be Friday night music for those who choose to camp or lodge on-site for the weekend.

General admission is $60 for adults, $40 for youths and free for children under 11. Campsites and catered breakfast can be reserved when purchasing tickets. For more information or to buy tickets, visit avl.mx/bc9

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