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Professors’ Research Uncovers Untold Story of Racial Violence

Beneath the popular folk song, “Swannanoa Tunnel,” and beneath the railroad tracks that run through Western North Carolina, is a story of blood, greed, and obfuscation. This story was told by two Warren Wilson College professors who spent the last eight years researching it.

Warren Wilson professors Jeff Keith and Kevin Kehrberg spent the last eight years researching the story behind the popular old folk song (originally a hammer song) “Swannanoa Tunnel.” As our nation reckons with systematic racial violence and ongoing injustice, the story of this song points to unmarked graves of hundreds of wrongfully convicted Black people who died building a railroad tunnel near Asheville.