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Support the African-American Museum and Arts Center at Stephens-Lee

The museum’s permanent and changing exhibitions alike will share untold stories of the Black / African-American experience and shed new light on our shared past so that we can build an inclusive future with justice, equity, and equality. Visitors will be challenged to reconsider what we think we collectively know about the history of being Black in Asheville, Buncombe County, Western North Carolina, and the United States of America. The museum's exhibits will include archived materials and digital interactives.

The museum is situated in the last remaining building on the campus of the historic Stephens-Lee High School (SLHS) in a red-lined neighborhood that was decimated by urban renewal policies in Asheville. A permanent section of the museum will be Stephens-Lee History and will provide special focus on SLHS educators, staff, and students, and the role of the school as the premier public high school for Black students in Western North Carolina, as well as the impact SLHS has had on the world.

Another permanent section of the museum will be Neighborhood History and will enable visitors to see the East End / Valley Street community from inception to present day and inform visitors of the theory, implementation, and impacts of the practice of red-lining in Asheville and throughout America, including present-day gentrification.

federal policy enforces inequity
  • East End / Valley Street Neighborhood residents voiced a desire for a museum here, in response to city-sponsored community listening session on community wishes in 2010

  • City Council Resolution of Support Awarded: 2018     

  • TDA Grant Funding Awarded: 2018  

  • Design Charette by Asheville Chapter of AIA and Asheville Chapter of AIGA Held: 2019

  • Contractor: WEAVERCOOKE (contractors of International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Durham) 

  • Awaiting MOU from City of Asheville since 2018

Continued and expanded community support will allow the museum to flourish. Educational programs and docent programs for all ages will launch in 2022. Unrestricted cash grants and donations made to the museum's sponsoring 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, River Front Development Group are requested. Please use our donation page.

The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) has funded both the trail and museum. We thank you.

Our sponsors and partners on the museum include the Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County and Asheville Chapter of the American Institute fo Graphic Artists, and the Asheville Chapter of American Institute of Architects. We thank you.


Partial funding of museum furnishings made possible through a City of Asheville Strategic Partnership Grant.


The African-American Cultural & Heritage District and Trail;
& the Museum and Arts Center at Stephens-Lee (2010-present)

 The African-American Cultural Heritage District Proposal is a placemaking project that combines historic community-based cultural heritage and economic development.  The District would include and connect the historically African-American Eagle-Market Street, East End, the South Slope and Southside communities.  

     The intended result of establishing the District is to serve as a catalyst for a renaissance of African American social and business enterprise in Asheville.  The renaissance will in part, be made possible through the District itself establishing Asheville as an African-American heritage tourism destination.

     The District Proposal has its roots in East End community meetings from 2010, in which native residents asserted their desire for recognition and celebration of not only the legacy of the legendary Stephens-Lee High School, its teachers, and graduates, but also the entire African-American community. The District Proposal is aligned with City and County visions for equity, greenways, public art, and much more.  The District Proposal is aligned with Ashevivve-Buncombe Tourism Development Authority's (TDA) vision for its grants projects.  Representatives of the Proposal are actively engaged in collaborations with the City and TDA.

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