The 5th annual African-Americans in WNC and Southern Appalachia Conference was held at the end of October on the campus of UNC Asheville. The theme of this year's conference was 'Making The Invisible Visible'. Four students gave presentations at the conference on research projects they were doing for the fall semester. BPR will feature three of those students on-air during Morning Edition this week as they completed their research this month. First up is junior Flo Jacques, who researched the history of aid and educational opportunities for African-Americans in Western North Carolina.
Excerpts of interview -
On why she focused on Western North Carolina specifically - "Although Asheville is known as (the largest) city in Western North Carolina, there is so much more to know about. It was very interesting to find the little histories that people do not know a lot about at all. If you were not educated about this, you might think you'd never find people in the west of North Carolina (outside of Asheville)."
She started her examination at 1865 following the end of the Civil War - "The Freedmen's Bureau started in 1865 after the Civil War. And because many people were aware of the struggles African-Americans were facing, they figured it's really important that we establish a program that can provide the necessities they need. And although I was obviously unable to interview anyone from the era, from my standpoint I think that African-Americans had just gotten out of slavery. And in order to get them back into society, it's important that we give them a step up. And I think that's what the Freedmen's Bureau was doing. It helped establish transportation to jobs, medical aid, housing. I think it was critical those things were given to them in order to get to the point where white people were."
How did the white population in Buncombe County respond to the Freedmen's Bureau - "It's no surprise that a lot of the white conservatives of Buncombe County did not approve of the program. Many of them felt that the need was greater for poor whites and not for African-Americans. And I think that's due to the mental concept of blacks as not equal individuals and that they do not deserve as much. I think for that reason (the white conservatives) were really jealous. I kept thinking (throughout my research) white people did not want black individuals to reach the level they were at. They wanted them to stay below. And for that reason I don't think the white conservatives wanted (African-Americans) to get to their level, to be as successful as they were."