Mountain Heritage Center to present exhibit on African-American community, music

All God's Children_webnews

WCU’s Mountain Heritage Center will host the exhibit “When All God’s Children Get Together,” celebrating the cultural and musical traditions of the region’s African-American community, as seen in this 1915 photo of William Bowens (left), an Andrews businessman, and William Cleveland “Cleve” Miller (right), a veteran of World War I and grandfather of the curator.

Western Carolina University’s Mountain Heritage Center, in partnership with One Dozen Who Care, will host a display on the cultural history and musical traditions of the region’s African-American community that will later be presented in neighboring towns as a traveling exhibit.

“When All God’s Children Get Together” will open in the center’s exhibit space on the second floor of Hunter Library on Friday, Feb. 17. Curated by Ann Miller Woodford, an author and founder of the community development organization One Dozen Who Care, the exhibit looks at the role of church, spiritual music and hymns in the African-American population in Western North Carolina.

Ann Woodford

Ann Woodford

The exhibit is based on Woodford’s book of the same name, which examines musical traditions of African-Americans as practiced at home, work, churches and schools. The Andrews native has conducted extensive research, historical documentation and interviews on African-American history, life and traditions in the mountains.

In three towns — Sylva, Murphy and Waynesville — the traveling exhibit will coincide with an evening weekend program of traditional music by gospel groups, community singing and dinners on the ground. The first event, sponsored by the Waynesville Missionary Baptist Association, will take place at Liberty Baptist Church in Sylva on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. Arrangements for the Murphy and Waynesville events, as well as other venues throughout 2017, are currently being scheduled by Woodford and center staff.

February is Black History Month, with WCU holding numerous events and special activities. Development of the “When All God’s Children Get Together” exhibit was assisted by WCU public history students and Andrew Denson, associate professor of history. The project is supported by funding from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area, the North Carolina Humanities Council and the Cherokee County Arts Council.

The Mountain Heritage Center gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call the museum at 828-227-7129.