1930s to Present
The Importance of Religion: Rev. Rondo "Ronda" Horton, also known as “the Moses of North Carolina churches,” was ordained in 1935 and began preaching at the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church. From that point on, the Mennonite congregation was a beacon in the community alongside the nearby Methodist Church and Boone Missionary Baptist Church. These churches served as centers for the lively public parties and gatherings through which Junaluska strengthened community ties and spiritual connections (1).
Livelihoods: During the early 20th century, most Junaluska families sustained themselves by farming small to moderately sized pieces of land. Each private farm supported a large network of extended kin when other forms of decently-paid labor were scarce. Some people in the community, particularly women, found work as domestics in Boone’s numerous new hotels as the Blue Ridge Parkway reached completion. A number of young men also worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps (a New Deal program) and learned construction skills which enabled them to find better paying work. The population of the Junaluska area continued to fluctuate according to these broader employment trends (2).
Education: By 1920, Watauga County consolidated its multiple black schools into a mere three facilities—one of which could be found in Boone, NC. As the scarcity of state funding became an issue, these buildings merged further into the Watauga Consolidated School (now home to the Western Youth Network) in 1937. Though this decision made transportation that much more difficult for the county’s black residents, consolidation meant better equipment and facilities which strengthened the education of the area’s young students. These schools also hosted a number of social activities for the Junaluska community outside of the church. These events included skating, dances, picnics, and fishing trips (3).
Mid-20th Century: The neighborhood of Junaluska formed and grew as a somewhat separate community within the larger town of Boone, NC until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s brought a rocky end to legally-sanctioned segregation. Before this time, the community had its own baseball team, the Boone Mountain Lions, who competed against other towns and prison teams. Junaluska boasted several small and thriving businesses like the Chocolate Bar, a popular neighborhood social club. The community also enjoyed a number of performances put on by the Appalachian State Teacher’s College and movies played at the town theatre—though at the latter black residents could only view pictures from the theatre balcony (4).
A New Name: Only after desegregation did the community become “Junaluska.” According to Sandra Hagler, a longtime resident and member of the Junaluska Heritage Association, “For years it was just known as ‘the hill' or ‘the black section.' I think it would be back in the '70s or '80s when the town started calling it that.” Some suggest the neighborhood gets its current name from its main street—named Junaluska (5).
Protecting Heritage: The Junaluska Neighborhood saw a great reduction in the number of its young residents as the 20th century wore on and the job market became ever more competitive. Combined with the demolition of the Methodist Church and closing of many community businesses, residents showed increasing concern about the preservation of their unique, vibrant heritage. In conjunction with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, and Appalachian State University, community leaders formed the Junaluska Heritage Association in 2011. This association hosts an annual jubilee in celebration of the neighborhood’s history and champions historical preservation projects across the town of Boone alongside the Wautuaga County Library and the Watauga County Historical Society (6).
(1)Susan E. Keefe, and Jodie D. Manross. 1999. “Race, Religion, and Community: The Demolition of a Black Church”. Appalachian Journal 26 (3). Appalachian Journal & Appalachian State University: 252–63. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40933981; Elizabeth Méaut Miller, "How Firm a Foundation": Denominationalism and Congregational Identity at an African American Mennonite Brethren Church, (n.p., 1997).
(2)Frazier Robert Horton, Negro Life in Watauga County, (n.p., 1942). (Can be found in Appalachian State Special Collections or at the Watauga County Public Library);"Reverend Ronda Horton Interview, 1973", Miscellaneous Oral History Transcripts, W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.
(3)Betty Jamerson Reed, School Segregation in Western North Carolina: A History, 1860s-1970s, (Jefferson, North Carolina: Macfarland & Company, 2011), 62; "Reverend Ronda Horton Interview, 1973," Miscellaneous Oral History Transcripts, W. L. Eury Appalachian Collection, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA.
(4)Frazier Robert Horton, Negro Life in Watauga County, (n.p., 1942); Our State, "Invisible Appalachia: Junaluska,"Our State Magazine, January 30, 2015, https://www.ourstate.com/junaluska/.
(5)Anna Oakes, "Junaluska: WNC's Oldest Black Community?," Watauga Democrat, May 14, 2012, http://www.wataugademocrat.com/community/junaluska-wnc-s-oldest-black-community/article_760e9def-28c7-566e-852d-ef3ae1b18729.html.
(6)Our State, "Invisible Appalachia: Junaluska,"Our State Magazine, January 30, 2015, https://www.ourstate.com/junaluska/; "Junaluska Project Unearths Boone's Black History," Watauga Democrat, January 16, 2012, http://www.wataugademocrat.com/news/junaluska-project-unearths-boone-s-black-history/article_d412a6d2-4fb6-5ba5-afb6-71b9dff3b030.html.