2019 a project was undertaken to survey the African American heritage related
resources of Brevard and Transylvania County.
Western Kentucky University Folk Studies professor, Dr. Michael Ann Williams was
hired as the project consultant. Dr.
Williams and doctoral student, Sydney Varajon included an oral history
component with the project to enhance the traditional architectural survey.
style personal interviews focused on everyday life, including issues of
segregation and racism. They created a
sense of place by offering a view of the African American community as a whole
rather than of individual buildings.
common theme among all interviewees was the closeness of the community. Several mentioned that even prior to phone
service word would reach home before the child did if they misbehaved. Morris Young referred to the “little red
birds” who would quickly pass word of misdeeds. But Young and the
others agreed that one of the good things was that people looked out for each
other and took care of one another. They
repeatedly stated how safe they felt within the community.
reminisced about their school days, where each morning began with devotions,
singing and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Several people talked about the high expectations of their teachers and
the respect they demanded but all spoke favorably of their time at the
Rosenwald School and the top quality education they received.
integration African American families had to send their high school age
children away to school because there was not a high school for black students
in Transylvania County. Those
interviewed attended Ninth Avenue in Hendersonville, boarding schools or
someplace where they could stay with family.
also talked about their struggles after school integration. One interviewee stated, “All we could
do was go to school, behave, stay in our place. Don’t cause any trouble.” One positive
experience was the respect and equality Coach Brookshire showed everyone on Brevard High’s first integrated football team and expected them to share with
each other. Fifty years later players
remained close to their coach.
interviews and transcriptions are all available in the Local History Room at
the Transylvania County Library. The
name of the report is “Walking Around the World” which came from a story L.C. Betsill told
about walking from the Greasy Corner area, up Cashiers Valley and around to the
Pinnacle neighborhood (present day Brevard Music Center) on Sunday afternoons
to visit the families who lived up there.
They referred to it as “walking around the world.”
Corner was the hub of the community. It
was the center of African American commerce and entertainment in Brevard from
the early to the mid-20th century.
After the Community Center was organized it provided a place for gatherings,
including events for children, youth and adults. Several people shared stories of businesses
and activities around that busy area.
Darity summed it up with “the Rosenwald community has been alive and
still is alive and well.” Next week Picturing the Past will look
at the architectural component of the project.
and information for this column are provided by the Rowell Bosse North Carolina
Room, Transylvania County Library. Visit the NC Room during regular library
hours (Monday-Friday) to learn more about our history and see additional
photographs. For more information, comments, or suggestions contact Marcy at