Junaluska Jubilee: Photos from the Celebration of Boone’s Historic Black Neighborhood
Junaluska, Boone’s historic black neighborhood, celebrated its fourth annual Junaluska Jubilee on Saturday, July 18 with an estimated 75 people gathered. This year the Jubilee honored the Boone Mennonite Brethren Church, located at 161 Church Street, site of the yearly event. The Church has been an integral part of the Junaluska community since its very beginnings and still is today.
Almost 100 years old, the church was built in 1918 by Mennonite missionary Joseph W. Tschetter and members of the local African American community. Rev. Ronda Horton was perhaps the church’s most influential leader, serving as pastor beginning in 1933 and then moderator until his death in 1986. Ronda Horton was honored at the first Junaluska Jubilee in 2012.
Krimmer Mennonite missionaries immigrated to North America in the late nineteenth century from Crimea, Russia, in response to persecution for their Anabaptist Protestant beliefs. They came to western North Carolina in 1900 in response to a call by Emily Prudden for Christian teachers. They built a total of 13 churches and an orphanage serving African Americans in the mountains and foothills. In some cases the churches also served as schools for black children, who were not allowed to attend white schools.
The Boone church has always been relatively independent and self-sufficient. All but one of the pastors since 1946 has been an African American from western North Carolina. The current pastor is Rev. Mike Mathes.
The church offers the only public gathering space for members of the community. As the only church currently operating in the community, it is the spiritual heart of Junaluska.
Worship styles and practices in the church have been shaped by African American cultural traditions including charismatic and enthusiastic participation in church services, call and response preaching, and gospel music accompanied by electric guitar, electric piano and drums.
The Junaluska Gospel Choir is central to the Boone church services, and the choir regularly sings at other churches and community events in the region. Their CD “Rough Side of the Mountain” is currently for sale on the church website: www.boonechurch.com/choir/.