Root Shock: Weighing the cost of urban renewal

Urban renewal, once hailed as the savior of urban areas, has often led to unintended consequences. The drastic reshaping of a city can prompt the demolition of entire neighborhoods, often including homes that were historically owned by African-American families. Asheville has its own history of troublesome urban renewal, especially in the East End neighborhood, where black families were uprooted in the name of urban renewal.

On shaky ground:: Photographer Andrea Clark’s photo documentation of Asheville’s demolished East End neighborhood figures heavily in a series of programs on the hidden costs of urban renewal. Photo by Andrea Clark

The cultural fallout , dubbed “Root Shock” by psychiatrist Mindy Fullilove, lasts for generations and denies African-American families a firm footing in the community.

UNC-Asheville and Buncombe County Public Libraries are hosting an upcoming series of presentations and events spotlighting urban renewal as it has played both here in Western North Carolina and across the country:
• Photographer Andrea Clark, who documented the East End neighborhood before its destruction in the 1970s, will discuss “Visions in Black and White: Asheville’s East End, A Community on the Cusp of Urban Renewal,” on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 6:30 p.m. at UNCA’s Humanities Lecture Hall.
• Clinical psychiatrist Fullilove, author of Root Shock: How Tearing up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It (One World/Ballantine, 2004), will speak Friday, Feb. 27, at 7 p.m. in UNCA’s Humanities Lecture Hall.
• A reception for Fullilove will follow a discussion with Asheville community elders on Saturday, Feb. 28, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Diana Wortham Theater.
• An exhibition of Clark’s photographs, titled “Twilight of a Neighborhood: Asheville’s East End, 1970,” will be on display Feb. 28 through March 31 in A-B Tech’s Holly Library. A reception for Clark will be held at the gallery on Saturday, Feb. 28, at 2 p.m.
• A panel discussion and public forum on “Learning the Lessons of Root Shock: Building Better Neighborhoods for Us All” will be held on Sunday, March 1, at 2:30 p.m. in A-B Tech’s Ferguson Auditorium.
• The film When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts will be screened over two nights in UNCA’s Humanities Lecture Hall. The first half will be shown Wednesday, March 18, at 7 p.m., followed by the second half on March 19 at 7 p.m. The Hot 8 Brass Band, heralded as the keepers of the New Orleans Jazz flame, will hold a Q&A after the March 19 showing.
• The Hot 8 Brass Band will perform on Friday, March 20, at 8 p.m. in UNCA’s Lipinski Auditorium. Admission is $10, or $5 for students, and are available at 232-5000 or All other events are free and open to the public.


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