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Western Carolina University – Mountain Heritage Awards honor contributors to Southern Appalachian folk customs

By Geoff Cantrell

Historic walk led by WNCHA along the Palmetto Trail, Saluda Gap section, during 2020.

When Mountain Heritage Day returns to the Western Carolina University campus on Saturday,
On September 25, so will the presentation of the annual Mountain Heritage Awards, that honor
an individual and an organization for contributions to Southern Appalachian history,
culture and folklore.

Recipients are chosen by a committee comprised of campus and regional representatives.
The awards recognize an individual and an institution or organization as distinguished
service, achievements, influence or experience in maintaining the cultural viability
of the region.

For 2021, organizational honors go to the Western North Carolina Historical Association,
founded in 1952 and based in Asheville. The regional nonprofit group has a mission
to preserve and promote the history and legacy of western North Carolina through
interpretation, compilation, and collaboration, as well as operating the Smith-McDowell
House as a center for teaching history.

Over the past 18 months, WNCHA has placed a specific emphasis on inclusion, diversity,
equity and accessibility in all work that the nonprofit organization. They have adopted justice
and land recognition declarations to tell a fuller story, especially to highlight
voices that have traditionally been marginalized in representations of heritage and history.
WNCHA is working to specifically amplify the voices of African Americans, Native Americans,
and other ethnic or cultural groups at WNC in current and future programming, exhibits
and museum interpretation.

"The Western Carolina Historical Association thanks Western Carolina University
for presenting it with the Mountain Heritage Award for 2021," said Ralph Simpson,
president of the association's board of directors. "In early 2020, we made
a commitment to tell a more complete and inclusive story of western North Carolina.
Although primarily rural, this region is richly diverse and complex history.
Great part of our story has not been told.

through programming and interpretation. Our trustees are fully
committed to this work, and our program participants are welcoming the educational journey
with enthusiasm, "said Simpson." We encourage anyone who has an interest. in Western
The history of North Carolina, whether long-time residents, newcomers or visitors, to come
join us ”.

William H. Turner

Individual honors for 2021 go to William H. Turner, author, educator, and co-host

from the program "Sepia Tones: Exploring Black Appalachian Music", distributed through

Mountain Air Podcast from the Great Smoky Mountains Association and available through Apple,

Google, Spotify, Stitcher, and other major streaming services.

Turner, a native of Harlan County, Kentucky, became one of the first to combine

American Studies and Appalachian Studies, ultimately reshaping both fields. From

with the books "Blacks in Appalachia" in 1985, and more recently "The Harlan Renaissance", Turner deeply revisits early histories that often ignored the complex culture

interactions that created the distinctive folk customs for which the region is known today.

He served as Distinguished Professor of Appalachian Studies at Berea College, between

other academic positions, and now resides in Houston.

“Working with Dr. Turner and co-host Dr. Ted Olson to produce this series of podcasts

it's been a privilege in more ways than one, ”said Aaron Searcy, Publishing Associate

with GSMA. "Basically, they have given me a backstage pass for live performances and

heartfelt stories from some of the best living artists and scholars in the south

Appalachian Music, and Turner and Olson Share That Special Access with Listeners,

also. "

The Mountain Heritage Award was presented for the first time in 1976 to John Parris, a Jackson

County native and longtime resident who died in 1999. A World War II international

war correspondent, he was loved for his long Asheville Citizen Times column

"Roaming the Mountains" and his work to start a journalism study program in Western

Carolina University.

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