By 1860, about 15 percent of the population of Western North Carolina was enslaved. Only a small percentage of the White settlers, who had pushed out Indigenous Native Americans, owned slaves — about 2 percent of households, according to Katherine Calhoun Cutshall, collections manager, North Carolina Room, Pack Memorial Library — and of those, most owned one or two. The majority were owned by a handful of elite families, whose names are commemorated throughout the region.
They used their wealth and influence to help build Asheville and surrounding communities, supporting government, schools, healthcare, infrastructure, parks and other civic improvements, for which they were honored. But the wealth that lifted them to prominence was derived in large part by the enslavement and exploitation of Black people, entwining their many good deeds with the evil of racism.