Darin Waters and Marcus Harvey Talk Asheville’s Black Roots in New Radio Show

Marcus Harvey (left) and Darin Waters (right) are co-hosts of “The Waters and Harvey Show on Blue Ridge Public Radio

Asheville has been home to an African-American community for centuries. However, African-American residents in Asheville and western North Carolina have historically suffered from systemic inequality and racial disparities.

In the new radio program and podcast “The Waters and Harvey Show,” co-hosts Darin Waters and Marcus Harvey examine western North Carolina’s cultural history and the narratives of marginalized communities.

Host Frank Stasio previews the show with Darin Waters, professor of history at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, and Marcus Harvey, religious studies professor at UNC-Asheville.


Waters on the history of African-Americans in Asheville and his upbringing in the region

My family dates back to the 1850s, and it became frustrating when I was asked where I was from to have people say, “Are there really African-Americans in that region of the state?” We’re not only talking about western North Carolina but all of southern Appalachia as well. There are movements that have started, one is called the Affrilachian Artist Project. This is an effort to begin to uncover what the unique experiences of Appalachian African-Americans has been.

Waters on the legacy of the Young Men’s Institute (YMI) for the African-American community in Asheville

I was very proud to discover that the idea for the creation of the YMI really originated within the African-American community. I had grown up hearing that George Vanderbilt had initially built it for the African-American workers on his estate, which essentially puts the onus for the creation of the institute on his side. But Vanderbilt and his attorney made very clear in the records that exist at the Biltmore Estate that the idea was not originally his. It originated and was indigenous to the African-American community which gives agency to that community. That’s something that is important for the history of African-Americans in this space, especially in a place where people have assumed there was no African-American population.

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