African American History in Tryon: Impact of the Roseland Center

Published 11:31 am Tuesday, June 27, 2023

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On June 15, Dr. Warren Carson held a lecture on the history of the African American community in Tryon, titled “Walk on the East Side.” The venue of this lecture was the Roseland Community Center, an integral piece of this history.

The Roseland Community Center was founded in 1940 as a safe place for African American children in the days of segregation, as Harmon Field only permitted whites. Roseland promoted childhood education and recreation while also serving as a destination for neighborhood meetings, book clubs, family reunions, and just about any other type of social gathering in the community.

Dr. Carson, an accomplished professor at University of South Carolina Upstate, grew up in the Tryon area and is a current resident. He reflected on his formative years’ experiences in his lecture. One of the most intriguing pieces of the history he described was the diversity of the East side of Tryon; not just racially, but politically, religiously and socially.

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One excellent point in this talk was that, despite the diversity of people living in that area, it was still a very social community. One of the biggest ways they would socialize would be through progressive house parties, where guests would move from house to house until they reached a big party at a final house. Often, the Roseland Community Center would serve as a stop or even the destination of these house parties, where Dr. Carson described they would party “til the wee hours of the morning.”

All social gatherings involved food. Members of churches, schools, and businesses would often sell food on certain days, usually weekends, to raise additional money for the community. Nothing attracts the masses quite like a plate of good food, and the people of Tryon knew that.

This wonderful educational lecture was sponsored by the Tryon History Museum, as part of a series of lectures called “Tales of Tryon.” The Tryon History Museum constantly strives to share every piece of the history of this gem of Western North Carolina and, as someone who has only lived in the area for a few years, I was pleased to learn so much about a part of Tryon and its history that I had not previously investigated.  


Sam Hipp