Becky Stone, storyteller from Fairview, stands with Earl L. IJames, curator from the North Carolina Museum of History, who organized the showing of the document of the 13th amendment at the Vance Birthplace.
By Dasha Morgan- Thanks to the North Carolina Museum of History Western North Carolina citizens had an opportunity to view the original copy Congress sent to North Carolina for ratification of the 13th amendment. This was the first time the document has left the State Archives in Raleigh, where is is kept in a climate-controlled vault. Earl L. Ijames, the curator for the exhibit, came to Asheville with the document, which was part of the commemoration 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
There was a schedule of events all day at the Vance Birthplace to commemorate the occasion, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. This was the farthest West the original copy of the hand written document, which freed the slaves, was being exhibited. A keynote address was given at 11:00 a.m. by Dr. Darin Waters, a professor of history at UNC-A. This was followed by storytelling and living history vignettes by Becky Stone of Fairview. She brought Sarah Gudger to life with her tales about this slave from Old Fort Her inflections and phraseology told in the Vance Slave Cabin made the dark history of the Civil War period ever present. A period of question and answer followed.
A number of tents surrounded the exhibition hall and told about specific events in the area. For instance, on July 18 there will be a Conservation Assistance Day at the Western Office of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, or the aSHEville Museum will open in July at 35 Wall Street. Books on the Civil War and North Carolina history could be purchased as well.
At 2:00 p.m. the St. John A. Baptist Church choir sang African-American Spirituals and Hymns at the open Picnic Pavilion. The director explained that the music and songs being sung paid an important part in the survival and life of many of the slaves. Often the words were message songs passing information to those listening on an individual’s plans for escape. Some tunes sung by the choir were “Nobody Knows the Trouble I Have Seen,” “ This Little Light of Mine” and “”Down by the Riverside.” The St. John A. Baptist Church at 20 Dalton Street in Asheville is approaching its 100th Diamond Centennial Anniversary this August.
Later in the day many more events took place. At 4:00 p.m. Dr. Steven Nash, professor of History, ESTU, gave a lecture on “The End of Slavery and Reconstruction in Western North Carolina.” At 5:00 p.m. Dr. Jeff Keith of Warren Wilson College and Dr Ellen Pearson of UNC-A discussed their work on the project to survey and restore the South Asheville African-American Cemetery. At 6:00 the children’s librarian from Weaverville Public Library presented storytelling sessions, and at 7:00 p.m. a documentary ‘Forever Free” described Buncombe County’s digitization of its slave deeds, which has allowed access to these deeds for viewing by many people.