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African American Experiences in the Smokies project unveils two waysides
Published May 23, 2023; 1:12 p.m.

Features new performance by musician Eric Mingus

smokies african american experiences
Three African American men are standing holding instruments - a tuba, guitar, and fiddle with a bow. They are each wearing a shirt, pants, coat, and a hat. They are standing outside with trees in the background. Blount County Public Library Photo

GATLINBURG, TN -- Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials invite members of the public to join an event unveiling two new waysides at Mingus Mill on Tuesday, May 23 at 10:30 a.m. The new waysides are a part of the larger African American Experiences in the Smokies project.

“The new signs and the African American Experiences in the Smokies project are so important to tell the untold stories of Black people in the region,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “And we are honored to have Eric Mingus perform a new musical piece that connects with his own ancestors who lived here. His performance will also introduce and invite new audiences to explore the African American journey in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.”

Vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and poet Eric Mingus will perform a new piece of music that speaks to and of Mingus Mill, its location, and the people who lived there, including his ancestors. A Santa Fe-based musician, Eric has recently re-connected with his family’s story that is rooted in the park through the African American Experiences in the Smokies project. Eric is descended from Daniel Mingus, a formerly enslaved carpenter, and Clarinda Mingus, the daughter of Daniel’s enslaver.

One of the new waysides tells the story of the nearby Enloe Slave Cemetery, where several African Americans are interred. The other wayside tells the story of Eric’s father, legendary jazz bassist Charles Mingus, Jr., and his family.

Superintendent Cassius Cash, Eric Mingus, and others will give brief remarks, starting at 10:30 a.m. near the Mingus Creek trailhead. The performance by Eric Mingus will start at 10:50 a.m. Following the event, Park Ranger Antoine Fletcher will offer a short walking tour of the nearby Enloe Slave Cemetery.

The African American Experiences in the Smokies project is supported by the Friends of the Smokies and Great Smoky Mountains Association, which help fund research of the historic presence and influence of African Americans in the southern Appalachian Mountains from the 1540s through today.


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