African Americans in WNC and South Appalachia Conference Coming in October

Warning: Information you find on this page may be outdated or incorrect.

The fourth annual African Americans in WNC and South Appalachia Conference will be held Oct. 19-21 at the YMI Cultural Center, UNC Asheville’s Sherrill Center and The Collider.

Conference activities are free and open to everyone, and they include an opening reception on Oct. 19, panel discussions on Oct. 20-21, and an awards night on Oct. 21. The theme of this year’s conference is “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” Conference details can be found at

“We are excited to host the fourth annual African Americans in Western North Carolina this year,” said conference organizer Darin Waters, assistant professor of history at UNC Asheville. “Each year the conference has not only grown, but has demonstrated the ongoing interest in understanding the historical experiences and contribution of African Americans to Western North Carolina and Southern Appalachia. What makes this year’s conference even more exciting is that in addition to history, conference participants will also receive an assessment of the current state of affairs within the region’s African American communities and hear about the ways that these communities are using their histories to meet existing challenges and further stimulate community resilience.”


The conference starts on Thursday, Oct. 19, with an opening reception at the YMI Cultural Center at 39 South Market Street in Asheville, featuring the Jesse & Julia Ray Lecture. This year’s keynote speaker is Judge Yvonne Mims Evans.

Evans is a superior court judge for the 26th Judicial District of the Seventh Division of the Superior Court, serving Mecklenburg County in North Carolina. She was appointed by former Governor Mike Easley in 2003. She was re-elected in 2012 and her current term expires in 2020. A native of Hendersonville, Evans attended the 9th Street School and later the Allen School in Asheville.

That evening a community achievement award will be presented to Shirley Whitesides, program director of Delta House Life Development of Asheville Inc.

The conference returns to UNC Asheville’s campus on Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21 with panel discussions beginning at 9 a.m. each day in the Wilma M. Sherrill Center. In addition to presentations examining African American history, the conference will highlight research from UNC Asheville’s State of Black Asheville classes led by Professor of Political Science Dwight Mullen. Innovative local groups demonstrating African American and Latino community resilience will also be featured.

The conference concludes with the CoThinkk Awards Night at The Collider, located at 1 Haywood St, Asheville, on Saturday, Oct. 21 from 7 to 11 p.m. CoThinkk is a giving circle that invests its time, talent and treasure to accelerate positive changes in communities of color in Asheville and Western North Carolina, and is one of the conference sponsors. Advance registration for this event at is required.

The fourth annual African Americans in WNC and South Appalachia Conference receives funding from the The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which awarded UNC Asheville a grant of $700,000 for public arts and humanities in 2017. One of the grant goals is to further initiatives in Affrilachia, uncovering what has been the largely undocumented influence of African Americans on the culture and social fabric of Western North Carolina.

The conference is sponsored by UNC Asheville, including the Deans of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Howerton Professor of Humanities, NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor in the Humanities, History Department, Humanities Program, Africana Studies Program, Office of the Provost, and the Center for Diversity Education. Conference partners include The Wilma Dykeman Legacy, The YMI Cultural Center, Amy Mandel Katina Rodis Fund, African American Heritage Commission of Asheville and Buncombe County, and CoThinkk.

For more information, contact UNC Asheville Department of History, 828-251-6415 or [email protected].