The African American Experiences in the Smokies: Searching02 August 2023
In 2018, Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GRSMNP) started The African American Experiences in the Smokies (AAES) project which focuses on the overlooked history of African Americans in the Smokies and Southern Appalachia. Antoine Fletcher will discuss the broad goals of the project, as well as the specific focuses currently. In the 1800s, Southern Appalachia was a remote and socio-economically challenged region. Even with its challenges – families thrived, survived, and died in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina for decades. Many regional families have a long list of ancestors and decedents that are buried in the park. This extensive family history of early white settlers, enslaved, freed people of color, and Native Americans has led to over 150 cemeteries being documented in GRSMNP. Although the number of documented cemeteries in GRSMNP is astonishing, African American cemeteries are not documented as well as their white counterparts, leading GRSMNP to pledge more time and effort in researching African American cemeteries to bring visibility to sacred spaces such as African American cemeteries.
About the presenter:
For 17 years, Antoine Fletcher has been a devoted employee of the National Park Service. He has worked at parks such as Fort Sumter National Monument, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, and now world-renowned Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He’s contributed to the National Park Service through interpretation and education, partnerships, and currently science communication at the Appalachian Highlands Science Learning Center. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Anthropology from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and currently resides in Asheville, NC.