It’s never a real trip on the Ingles Open Road unless you learn something new. This time, Bainbridge explores the proud past of Black Asheville—a place filled with a history of segregation, integration, and gentrification. It tells the stories of struggle and resilience that began hundreds of years ago and continues through today.
Hood Huggers International is an organization that exists to build greater communication, connection, and wealth in systematically marginalized neighborhoods through the arts, education, and social enterprise. DeWayne Barton, the founder of Hood Huggers, collects and shares these lost stories about the community.
Bainbridge begins the tour at what was once known as the Castle on the Hill. This area is the site of the historic Stephens Lee High School. During segregation, the school was a beacon of education for African Americans in this region. Here, you learn about the amazing teachers, students, and administrators who graced its halls and the history of the surrounding community. You also learn about the unexpected destruction of Stephens Lee High School following integration.
One of the incredible things about the Hood Huggers tours is the intersection of history, performance art, and emotion that you experience on your journey. This isn’t a tour of stodgy dry dates and archives. It’s a living history interpreted by a dynamic guide who brings it to life in many ways.
As the tour continues on past popular structures built by less well-known African American artisans, you come into the historic heart of Black Asheville. The Block is the area that surrounds the Young Men’s Institute (YMI). You learn of many Black-owned businesses that once thrived here as well as the stories of the people who made this place come aliveonly to fade with the changes the years would bring.
The tour concludes at The Block, where you’re surrounded by some new Black businesses, like Sole82, a cool art gallery, and a high-end shoe and fashion destination. There’s also Noir Collective, a boutique shop run by the talented members of Asheville’s Black community. They make and sell their products.
You can support Black business and Black artists plus leave with a treasure to remind you that Black Asheville isn’t just history, it’s alive and thriving.
Book your Hood Hugger tour right now at Hoodhuggers.com for both the downtown and Burton Street tour. You’re sure to leave feeling enlightened and inspired.
To learn more about Ingles Market, visit their website at ingles-markets.com.