Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
The focus of this dissertation is the social, economic, and political development of the black community in Asheville, North Carolina from 1793 to 1900. It spans the period of slavery, the Civil War, emancipation, Fusion politics, and disfranchisement. From 1865 to 1900, blacks in Asheville experienced some progress. As the city's popularity as a national tourist and health resort grew, especially after the arrival of the railroad in 1880, blacks found jobs in the city's growing service sector. Service sector jobs did not provide blacks with the type of financial opportunities necessary for any significant economic or social progress, however. The racial attitudes of whites added to the challenges that blacks faced in Asheville. As a very small minority, blacks never had any significant degree of political power in Asheville and, thus, were thus without any means through which they might challenge their marginalization. Asheville's importance rests in its role as the economic, social, and political center of western North Carolina. After the Civil War, blacks throughout the South were drawn to towns and cities out of a belief that such places offered them greater social, economic, and educational opportunities than what they might find in the rural South. Although small when the Civil War ended, Asheville was more urban than any other area in western North Carolina and thus attracted blacks from the surrounding countryside. While, Asheville did offer blacks more opportunities than elsewhere in the region, the small size of their population and the racial attitudes of whites ensured that any opportunities for advancement were more significantly limited than those of blacks in towns and cities that boasted larger black populations.