Poverty, Privacy,

Race & Renewal

Questions of Access and Illustration of the Housing Authority Records of Asheville, North Carolina

You can find a link to these slides at markedwinpeterson.com

11th Annual African, African American, and Diaspora Studies
James Madison University
February 18, 2021

Asheville, North Carolina



All pictures from the Special Collections library at UNC-Asheville.
This includes images from the HACA Collection not yet online.


12,723 “nonwhite” population was 21.8% of Asheville


12,504 “nonwhite” population was 18.2% of Asheville


10,671 “Negro or other races” population was 18.5% of Asheville

Water, Heyde, Betsalel (2017)



  1. Poorest Black neighborhood in Asheville
  2. 58% Home ownership
  3. Targeted for development since the 1920s

East Riverside

425-Acre Urban Renewal Project, 1960s
  1. 1,300 buildings, 1,250 families, & 100 businesses
  2. Almost half the African Americans in Asheville
  3. Years later, 44% home ownership among Blacks

Nickoloff (2015)

plan “1,100 homes, six beauty parlors, five barber shops, five filling stations, fourteen grocery stores, three laundromats, eight apartment houses, seven churches, three shoe shops, two cabinet shops, two auto body shops, one hotel, five funeral homes, one hospital, and three doctor’s offices” Ndiaye (2010), quoted in Nickoloff (2015) house

Displaced by Urban Renewal


Urban Renewal 1950-74
  1. 13 Billion dollars
  2. 1,200 towns
  3. at least 400,000 families moved
East Riverside
  1. One of the biggest, despite Asheville’s small size
  2. “By the late 1960s, an estimated 145 families had been displaced by urban renewal projects in Asheville, 29% of which were families of color” Renewing Inequality (2021)
  3. Homeowners were given a single offer, seldom negotiated


  1. Offers were determined by comparison of three appraisals from limited number of city appraisers.
  2. “rejected the offer because she states she has invested over $9,000 on the property and refuses to sell it for any less”
  3. “house was accidentally demolitioned in the interim; HACA then agreed to pay $6500”
  4. “requested a review and negotiated to retain all improvements; accepted negotiated price”

Housing Authority of the City of Asheville

Part 7: East Riverside Project Files

115 boxes of legal documents

  • “The collection is open for research. Certain confidential information has been redacted.”
  • “Records of HACA were acquired by UNCA in July 2007, and the legal transfer of ownership occurred on October 16, 2007 when the Asheville City Council approved the transfer of the material files”


  1. Records were organized by property plot
  2. Each folder was scanned as a pdf
  3. Students entered information into spreadsheet with plot, owners, offer & tenants
  4. Information was reviewed for database


  1. Each property was placed on map built from historic real estate maps
  2. Data matched to property and owners

Documents front


Human Face of Big Data


  • As part of general human-centered design approach, interviews were conducted with various stakeholders & potential users of the final website.
  • In addition to questions about identity & interest, interviewers also asked about views on urban renewal, life in Asheville, curation, privacy & the history of segregation.
  • Interviews were coded for qualitative analysis, which showed value, need & difficulties of project.



Digital Humanities

Twilight of a Neighborhood
*see also: Twilight of a Neighborhood
Mapping Inequality
Renewing Inequality
Mapping Cville
Mapping Decline
Durham Urban Renewal Records

Rather than integrating communities through urban renewal, it further created segregation. Because, as I said, the Southside, even though it was segregated, everybody, all the whites and Blacks too, everybody intermingled, you know, baseball games, they played in the yards, everybody knew everybody. The only time you were segregated was, of course, in school and in church. But, of course, when the urban renewal program came in and started dividing, not only did it divide the community of Blacks and destroy that, it destroyed quite a few, quite a bit of the white community too.” Personal Interview (2019)


“Root shock is the traumatic stress reaction to the destruction of all or part of one’s emotional ecosystem. It has important parallels to the physiological shock experienced by a person who, as a result of injury, suddenly loses massive amounts of fluids.”

iConference 2021

Multi-Generational Stories of Urban Renewal: Preliminary Interviews for Map-based Storytelling

Future Directions

  1. Interviews with more potential users for design.
  2. Analysis of home-owner resistance.


Please contact Dr. Myeong Lee if you would like to be interviewed to help shape the final site. mlee89@gmu.edu