African American News

Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail Brings Focus to Black History in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Trail connects visitors to Affrilachian history and ever-evolving cultural experiences, multicultural events, Black-owned businesses and new ventures from artists, chefs and entrepreneurs 

ASHEVILLE, N.C. , /PRNewswire/ — For the first time, Asheville’s Black heritage and culture is on permanent display around the city through a new walking trail. Unveiled in December 2023, the Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail is the first of its kind in Western North Carolina and one of a few Black heritage trails in the 13-state Appalachian region. It marks a significant milestone in the growing effort to amplify and preserve Affrilachian heritage, granting visitors an opportunity to retrace compelling narratives that make up Asheville’s Black history – including stories that have never been shared in a public space.

From well-known figures like Nina Simone, who attended boarding school in Asheville (her nearby childhood home will soon be open to the public), to community landmarks like the YMI Cultural Center, one of the oldest Black community centers in America, to everyday citizens like William R. “Seabron” Saxon, who refused to give up his bus seat four years before Rosa Parks, the Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail unearths intimate and fascinating stories of dignity, struggle and resilience. The trail comprises 14 stops and 20 panels across three historically significant Black neighborhoods.

Community activist Catherine Mitchell, who shepherded the trail to completion after years of extensive community efforts, said, “Our goal was focused on lifting up Black history in an inclusive way by illuminating stories of resilience and resourcefulness. The trail’s completion represents a moment of celebration, unity and remembrance.”

NEWS HIGHLIGHTS: Featured below are insights on how to experience the three-part Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail (and ideas for where to step off the trail and into local culture), how to plan a trail visit around a variety of new and ongoing multicultural festivals, as well as other important community efforts reclaiming Affrilachian culture.

“Where are the Black people?” – The Broader Context of the Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail in Reclaiming Affrilachian History

“Affrilachia” is a term coined in 1991 by Kentucky poet Frank X Walker to describe the Black legacy in Appalachia, a region where Black history and culture is deeply rooted but has historically been erased. As Asheville native and Buncombe County Commissioner Al Whitesides, who is featured on the digital trail, stated at the ribbon cutting, “Asheville’s Black Cultural Heritage Trail will finally tell the stories of our unsung heroes and under-recognized achievements so that Black communities, students and visitors can answer the question you often hear: ‘Where are the Black people?'”

Pulling forward the legacy and history of Affrilachia has informed numerous local businesses, artists and creators in the Asheville area. Examples include artist and activist DeWayne Barton who pursues the vision of “Rebuilding Affrilachia” through his Hood Huggers Tours of historically Black neighborhoods; and national recording artist Moses Sumney who was drawn to Asheville and inspired to release the full-length concert film Blackalachia in 2021.

How to Experience the Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail – Three Historic Neighborhoods and Exclusive Digital Content Provide an Immersive Experience

Trail-goers can explore each leg of the three-part trail – Downtown, Southside, and the River Area, also known as the River Arts District – and gain an uncommonly immersive experience of the past, walking past historically significant sites.

NEW RESTAURANT: Shanti’s first brick-and-mortar restaurant, the highly anticipated Good Hot Fish (a classic North Carolina “fish camp”) opened in January 2024 along the Southside portion of the trail.

BLACK MUSICAL HERITAGE: R&B singer Roberta Flack is honored in a mural in Black Mountain, NC where she was born.


Time Your Trail Visit Around Asheville Multicultural Festivals – Newly launched multicultural festivals join long-running events that celebrate Black joy, resilience, and entrepreneurship in the Blue Ridge Mountains (2024 dates in parentheses).

NATIONAL DOCUMENTARY: Narrated by rock and country star Darius Rucker, “Muni” is a tale of the Donald Ross-designed Asheville Municipal Golf Course during the segregated 1950s, when Black caddies became the players and launched the groundbreaking Skyview Golf Tournament, which continues to this day.

  • Goombay Festival (September – 2024 dates TBD):  Created in 1982 to celebrate the richness of the African diaspora and Asheville’s African American community, Goombay is hosted by the YMI Cultural Center, one of the oldest Black community centers in the nation.
  • Lovely Asheville Annual Fall Festival (Oct. 12-13): The third annual fall festival in downtown Asheville, Lovely Asheville celebrates nature and humanity with a backdrop of stunning Fall color.
  • LEAF Global Arts Festival (Oct. 17-20): A long-running and beloved Asheville institution, LEAF Festival is a celebration of world music and global culture that takes place in the Lake Eden area.

For more information about the Asheville Black Cultural Heritage Trail, please visit

For the most up-to-date insights and happenings, visit

SOURCE Explore Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau

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