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(Mountain Xpress) – Frankly, I miss the presence of Zebulon Vance’s granite obelisk, a poignant local landmark on Pack Square for over a century. Whether you’re looking for governors, senators, members of Congress or artists and writers, Western North Carolina really doesn’t have a great many famous Dead White Men or Women or anyone. As a historian, my short list of notables would include Vance, Jeter Pritchard, Robert Reynolds, Wilma Dykeman, David Swain, Thomas Clingman, Frances Goodrich, Floyd McKissick, Lillian “Brother Exum” Clement and one or two others. You can have your own list, but it likely won’t be more than two hands’ worth. The mountains have seldom been important in state and regional affairs.
Moreover, I wish Pack Square hadn’t been historically cleansed by removing such a visible reminder of its past. Instead, perhaps Asheville and Buncombe County should follow the British model of “retaining and explaining” controversial monuments and statuary. Sasha Mitchell of the African American Heritage Commission got it right when she suggested that the monument should be contextualized, not removed.
We live in a time framed by fake news, misinformation, digital tomfoolery, sanitized narratives of…