Past meets present: Asheville discusses Confederate monuments, lynchings and Native American history

LOOKING BACK: Several historical presentations took place this year. Featured, starting left, Fitzhugh Brundage, Trey Adcock, Karen Cox, William H. Turner and Ben Steere. Photos by/courtesy of, starting left, Grant Halverson, Thomas Calder, Karen Cox, William H. Turner, Western Carolina University

History lessons were shared throughout 2018. Several organizations hosted lectures and talks, while some residents took it upon themselves to examine both our city and the nation’s past.

Monumental decisions: The Pack Memorial Library hosted a pair of events that addressed Confederate monuments. Author and UNC Chapel Hill department chair Fitzhugh Brundage started the conversation in February with his talk A Vexing and Awkward Debate: The Legacy of a Confederate Landscape ( In May, author and UNC Charlotte professor Karen Cox continued the conversation with her lecture, Confederate Monuments in the Jim Crow South (

Confronting past injustices: In February at UNC Asheville, William H. Turner, professor emeritus at Prairie View A&M University and co-editor of Blacks in Appalachia, discussed the region’s role in the civil rights movement ( Meanwhile, throughout the late spring and summer, local residents, nonprofits and religious organizations journeyed to Montgomery, Ala., to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opened in April. The 6-acre site houses more than 800 monuments, each indicating a county where racial terror lynchings occurred. Buncombe County is included on the list. Members of these groups spoke with Xpress about their experiences. They also discussed the memorial’s larger mission to distribute replica monuments to all 800 counties featured on its site. (

Native American history: UNCA also hosted a series of talks focused on Native American history. In August, Ben Steere, archaeologist and assistant professor at Western Carolina University, discussed his ongoing research project concerning the evolution of household construction, trade patterns and lifestyles among native people ( The following month, historian and author Christopher Arris Oakley shared insights from his latest book, New South Indians: Tribal Economics and the Eastern Band of Cherokee in the Twentieth Century ( Also this year, Trey Adcock, UNC Asheville assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies and director of the American Indian and Indigenous Studies program, received the White Public Engagement Fellowship. The $50,000 grant allows Adcock and a team of students and colleagues to begin work on collecting, preserving and digitizing accounts of the now-defunct Snowbird Day School through oral histories and archival research (


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About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. His writing has appeared in Gulf Coast, the Miracle Monocle, Juked and elsewhere. His debut novel, The Wind Under the Door, is now available.

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