The Swannanoa Valley This is Home: Western North Carolina, Past and Present Series explores key historical, cultural, and ecological aspects of the Western North Carolina region with monthly evening lectures, taking place February thru November at the Education Room of the Black Mountain Public Library (105 N. Dougherty Street). These hour-long meet-ups engage the many stories that have shaped the Swannanoa Valley as a place and look at the human and natural forces that have shaped the region, bringing these histories into a present-day context. Each presentation ends with a Q&A discussion bringing our shared history into context with contemporary issues. This year, learn more about the place you call home by exploring topics such as indigenous women’s history, the 100 year anniversary of America’s first planned community, why and how the “Hillbilly” stereotype has persisted in Appalachia, and many more!

When & Where: WNC, Past and Present lectures take place once a month, February thru November on Thursday evenings from 6:00pm to 7:15pm at the Education Room of the Black Mountain Public Library (105 N Dougherty St., Black Mountain, NC 28711) unless stated otherwise.

Cost: Tickets are $5 for museum members who use their promo code, $10 for general admission. Some fees may apply. If you are not financially able to afford to attend this series, please contact the Swannanoa Valley Museum at 828-669-9566 for scholarship availability.

  • Cancellations made 48 hours or more before the program start date will receive a full refund.
  • Cancellations made less than 48 hours before the program start date will not be eligible for a refund.
  • A full refund will be offered if the museum cancels the program due to weather or unforeseen circumstances.
  • We recommend notifying us of your cancellation in writing via email to
  • You will receive a confirmation email upon processing your cancellation request.

2024 Entire Series Schedule

The Remembrance Project: Remembering and Honoring Individuals of Record Lynched in Buncombe CountyThursday, February 8th, 6:00-7:15pm
Eastern Cherokee Women in Resistance and Activism: Challenges MetThursday, March 21st, 6:00-7:15pm
Celebrating 100 Years: Grovemont-on-SwannanoaThursday, April 11th, 6:00-7:15pm
The Evolution of Southern Appalachian Barn Traditions: A Madison County StudyThursday, May 9th, 6:00-7:15pm
Art and Education at Black Mountain CollegeThursday, June 6th, 6:00-7:15pm
Heritage and Hope: Moonshine in the Swannanoa ValleyThursday, July 11th, 6:00-7:15pm
Seven Origin Stories in a Sentence: Reflections on Warren Wilson College’s 130-Year AnniversaryThursday, August 8th, 6:00-7:15pm
A Whirlwind Tour of WNC’s Rich History Thru the Voices of Our EldersThursday, September 12th, 6:00-7:15pm
War and Emancipation in the Heart of Confederate Appalachia (online ZOOM)Thursday, October 10th, 6:00-7:15pm (online ZOOM)
The Hillbilly: Past, Present, and (Most Probably) the Future (online ZOOM)Thursday, November 7th, 6:00-7:15pm (online ZOOM)

2024 Upcoming Event Details & Registration

June 6th: Art and Education at Black Mountain College

Dive into the vibrant world of Black Mountain College! Join us for a captivating talk delving into the heart of BMC’s renowned legacy in modern art and its deep ties to influential artists. Discover how this rich heritage stems from an educational philosophy that places the arts squarely at the core of a liberal arts curriculum. Explore the fascinating journey of BMC’s progressive, arts-centered model of education and ponder the pivotal role of creative experimentation in today’s learning landscapes.

Photo courtesy of Western Regional Archives.


About Dr. Jay Miller (click here)

Jay Miller is Associate Professor of the Public Humanities at Warren Wilson College. He writes about the intersection of art, politics, and philosophy, and is the author of The Politics of Perception and the Aesthetics of Social Change (Columbia, 2021). 

July 11th: Heritage and Hope: Moonshining in the Swannanoa Valley

This talk will focus on the history of moonshine in the Swannanoa Valley from the 1860s to the present day. It will explore the reasons why the Valley was such a hotbed of illegal distilling, some of the unique local characteristics of the practice, some of the surprising individuals involved in the business, and moonshining’s legacy in the region. 


About Dr. Daniel Pierce (click here)

Daniel S. (Dan) Pierce is the author of Tarheel Lightnin’: How Secret Stills and Fast Cars Made North Carolina the Moonshine Capital of the World (UNC Press, October 2019), The Great Smokies:  From Natural Habitat to National Park (UT Press, 2000), Corn From a Jar: Moonshining in the Great Smoky Mountains (Great Smoky Mountains Association, 2013), Hazel Creek: The Life and Death of an Iconic Mountain Community  (Great Smoky Mountains Association, March 2017) and the first truly comprehensive history of early NASCAR, Real NASCAR:  White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France (UNC Press, 2010). He has also recently collaborated with renowned Nashville, Tennessee poster artist Joel Anderson to produce the Illustrated Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Illustrated Guide to Exploring the Grand Circle: Utah and Arizona. His work has been published in The New York Times, Southern Cultures, Smokies Life magazine, and numerous encyclopedias including the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. He has appeared on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, The History Channel, CMT, HBO Canada, North Carolina People with William Friday, North Carolina Bookwatch, and the South Carolina ETV Emmy Award winning program “Take on the South.” In 2020 he co-founded the RAIL Memorial Project whose mission is to memorialize the lives and tragic deaths of the thousands of African American convicts who built the railroad up Old Fort Mountain and into Western North Carolina in the late 1870s. Hundreds died and were buried in unmarked graves along the tracks. He is a Professor of History and resident professional Hillbilly at the University of North Carolina Asheville where he teaches courses in Appalachian, North Carolina, Southern, and Environmental History.  He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Tennessee where he worked with distinguished southern historian James C. Cobb.

August 8th: Seven Origin Stories in a Sentence: Reflections on Warren Wilson College’s 130-Year Anniversary

In this discussion, Dr. Jeff Keith—a professor in the Department of Global Studies and History at Warren Wilson College—will discuss some of the complexities hidden within a conventional one-sentence “origin story” for Warren Wilson College. The lecture is informed by Dr. Keith’s research into the history of the college in the context of the Swannanoa Valley. Dr. Keith is currently writing the first of three volumes of a “People’s History of Warren Wilson College.” The three-volume “people’s history” will explore the College’s past through the lenses of environmental, cultural, and social historical conventions, respectively. The first book — “The Valley Remembers” — will tell some of the deepest known stories of the Swannanoa Valley in the context of the college’s history of learning from its setting.


About Dr. Jeff Keith (click here)

Jeffrey A. Keith was in line to become a sixth-generation Kentucky tombstone salesman, but he discovered a different way to engage with the past.  He earned a doctorate in history from the University of Kentucky, and now he teaches courses on U.S. foreign relations, Appalachian studies, environmental history, and globalization as a professor of global studies at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, North Carolina.  He also served on the graduate faculty for Warren Wilson College’s MA program in critical craft studies from 2020-2022.  Keith writes essays and reviews about rural life, cultural history, and U.S. diplomacy, and has published work in popular outlets (Oxford American and Bitter Southerner) as well as academic journals (Journal of Appalachian Studies, Diplomatic History, and The Journal of American-Southeast Asian Relations). His chapter contribution to Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music (Duke University Press, 2011) as well as his ongoing research into the song “Swannanoa Tunnel” speak to his enduring interest in Black contributions to musical traditions in the American South. He also serves as the Vice Chair of the South Asheville Cemetery Association, a non-profit that seeks to restore and improve the oldest public Black cemetery in Western North Carolina. As a guitarist, mandolinist, and vocalist, Keith has toured throughout the U.S. and abroad, playing old-time and bluegrass music.


September 12th: A Whirlwind Tour of WNC’s Rich History Thru the Voices of Our Elders

David Weintraub, Executive Director of the Center for Cultural Preservation and documentary filmmaker, will discuss the Center’s Mountain Elder Wisdom Project by presenting some short films and discussing the preservation work that the Center engages in. The Mountain Elder Wisdom Project, which helps to reclaim the traditions and culture of our mountain elders of Cherokee, African-American and Scots-Irish descent through a multi-county oral history project, showcases the lives of how Southern Appalachian Mountain people historically met their basic needs of water, food, shelter, clothing, and recreation in unique and diverse ways that were well suited for their distinct environment and its natural resources.


About David Weintraub (click here)

David Weintraub is an award-winning film director having produced over 50 films that have screened at film festivals around the world and on public television.  He is the founder and director of the Center for Cultural Preservation that has completed more than 500 videotaped oral histories with elders throughout the Southern Appalachian region. Weintraub believes that understanding how people lived their lives before Walmarts and plastic devices ruled our lives is important to rekindle how communities can find ways to live more resilient, more authentic lives.  Weintraub has also published more than a dozen books, is a columnist with his local newspaper and dabbles in law when he can find the time.  As self-proclaimed environmental troublemaker for the area, Weintraub has worked with half a dozen environmental organizations in order to create a better balance between development and protecting our natural inheritance.  Finally, he is the owner of Weintraub Films, a boutique film production company, that produces documentary films for businesses and families that which to tell their story.


October 10th: War and Emancipation in the Heart of Confederate Appalachia (online ZOOM)

In this talk, Steven Nash will address the how the main issues of the Civil War period played out in western North Carolina. Addressing issues like the myth of a solidly Unionist Appalachia and the idea that slavery didn’t exist in the mountains, Nash will discuss what led western North Carolinians into a war that would transform their society. Using diaries, letters, and a variety of government documents, Dr. Nash’s talk will show how the Civil War and Reconstruction impacted the people of western North Carolina.

Photo: 26th Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers aka “Rough and Ready Guard” at Gombroon. Courtesy of Pack Memorial Library.

**This event will be held online on Zoom. Upon registration, you will receive the Zoom link via email.**


About Dr. Steven Nash (click here)

Steven Nash is a Professor of History at East Tennessee State University. He is the author of Reconstruction’s Ragged Edge: The Politics of Postwar Life in the Mountain South (UNC Press, 2016), which received the Weatherford Award for Nonfiction awarded by Berea College and the Appalachian Studies Association. In 2010, he helped organize the Society of Appalachian Historians and helped plan its annual meetings through 2023. He maintains a strong interest in public history, serving as President of the Mountain History and Culture Group, a non-profit support board for the Zebulon B. Vance State Historic Site in Weaverville, North Carolina.


November 7th: The Hillbilly: Past, Present, and (Most Probably) the Future (online ZOOM)

Appalachia has long been stereotyped as a region of feuds, moonshine stills, mine wars, environmental destruction, joblessness, and hopelessness. Dismayed by the lack of attention to the negative depictions of mountain people, Dr. Katherine Ledford has rallied against these stereotypical representations. In this presentation, Dr. Ledford will confront the views that portray her home region as one-dimensional and counter the pervasive stereotypes that still influence the minds and opinions of the rest of the country concerning Appalachia.

**This event will be held online on Zoom. Upon registration, you will receive the Zoom link via email.**


About Dr. Katherine Ledford (click here)

Dr. Katherine Ledford teaches courses in Appalachian literature, global mountain literature, comparative mountain studies, and higher education pedagogy at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. In spring 2023, as a Fulbright Scholar, she taught graduate classes in the English department at Al Ahliyya Amman University in Amman, Jordan. Her teaching project, From the Appalachian Mountains to the Jordanian Highlands: Appalachian Literature as Cross-cultural Text, fostered cross-cultural understanding through literature. From 2009 to 2016 Dr. Ledford served as program director of Appalachian studies, advising and mentoring both graduate and undergraduate students. In 2023, she was inducted into the Cratis D. Williams School of Graduate Studies’ Academy of Outstanding Mentors. Dr. Ledford co-edited Writing Appalachia: An Anthology, a comprehensive anthology of Appalachian literature published by the University Press of Kentucky in March 2020. Dr. Ledford co-edited Backtalk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes (2000) and the media section of the Encyclopedia of Appalachia (2006). A past president of the Appalachian Studies Association (2011-2012), she is founding chair of the association’s International Connections Committee, which fosters communication between Appalachian studies scholars and mountain studies scholars around the world.