February 15, 2021
Celebrating Black History in Asheville
Every year since 1976, February has been designated Black History Month. Historian Carter G. Woodson and several notable African-Americans established the idea, and it’s grown in scale and shape over the years. In February, we can take time to learn about, acknowledge, and celebrate the importance of black history both in our country and right here in the city of Asheville.
Born in Tryon, North Carolina, in 1933, Nina Simone is one of WNC’s most famous daughters. A talented pianist since childhood, Simone faced racial discrimination head-on and became involved in the Civil Rights movement early in her life. Her music teacher saw her talent and helped raise money so Simone could attend the Allen High School for Girls in Asheville.
As her career took off, she became known as the High Priestess of Soul, and Rolling Stone named her the 29th Greatest Singer of All Time. In the fall of 2020, her childhood home in Tryon was granted an easement to preserve her birthplace history.
Edythe J. Gaines
Born here in Asheville in 1922, Edythe J. Gaines helped pave the way for female educators of color in the United States. She was the first woman and first African American to serve as school superintendent in Connecticut, where she put down roots as an adult.
After her father’s death, Gaines moved to New York and attended Hunter College until she graduated in 1944. She went on to obtain a Master’s Degree at New York University in 1947. In 1969, she graduated from the Harvard University doctoral program for education. In 1996, she was inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. While her life’s work was done in Connecticut, her story began right here in Asheville.
The contribution of black women to the fabric of Asheville is still going strong. Today, one of Asheville’s most promising chefs is Ashleigh Shanti, formerly of Benne on Eagle. In November of last year, Shanti announced that she was leaving Benne on Eagle, where she served as Chef de Cuisine for owner John Fleer. Though it seems like a bold move to change during a global pandemic, Shanti plans to start her own restaurant group.
Before moving to Asheville, Shanti worked for 18 months as a culinary assistant to Vivian Howard of Kinston NC’s Chef and the Farmer restaurant. Shanti didn’t specifically plan to settle in the mountains, but when the opportunity at Benne on Eagle came up, she had to take it. We can’t wait to see what she has in store next.
Black history in Asheville runs deep, and the legacy continues today. In 1893, the Young Men’s Institute opened its doors. Founders Isaac Dickson and Dr. Edward Stephens wanted to create an experience like the YMCA to serve Asheville’s black community. The community bought the building from the Vanderbilt estate for $10,000 in 1906. Today, the YMI Cultural Center is working to fully restore the historic building and continue the legacy of the YMI.
On the corner of Market and Eagle Street in downtown Asheville, the building was designed by the Biltmore architect Richard Sharp Smith. The YMI Cultural Center provides economic development programs, including business incubation, workforce development, and real estate apprenticeship.
GoPrime Mortgage of West Asheville would love to hear from you. We value the diversity of our community and celebrate all of our neighbors.
Do you want to know about the process to apply for a mortgage? GoPrime Mortgage in West Asheville is here to help. Call us today at 828-348-1907 –Zachery Adam at GoPrime Mortgage in West Asheville.
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