In Rutherford County, in the town of Forest City, there is a small neighborhood that is rich in history and tradition.

Grahamtown is one of Western North Carolina’s rare historic Black neighborhoods. Some of its history has been captured by Threatha Price Bennings in her book, “Moving to Grahamtown,” which includes stories of residents and families that have been passed down from generation to generation.

In it she says that in 1923 John Graham was the first black man to acquire property in the community, and later it was named in his honor. In the 1940s and 1950s Grahamtown became a social hub for African Americans and the neighborhood thrived, but later it began a slow decline.

In 2012, Pisgah Legal Services began an outreach effort in Grahamtown with a goal of building wealth through homeownership. While many residents of Grahamtown live in homes that have been passed down for several generations, over the years property was often not legally transferred upon death, and, as a result, many residents do not have clear legal titles.

PLS attorneys are using their expertise to help residents legally obtain their titles. Subsequently, homeowners may use these resources to improve the quality of their houses, borrow for higher education expenses or start their own businesses. Pisgah Legal is also working with community members to improve their credit and/or criminal records that may otherwise hinder them from employment.

We are pleased to work in partnership with local organizations that include: The G-Team, the Town of Forest City, the Rutherford Housing Initiative, Rutherford Housing Partnership, and The Community Empowerment Project. The GTeam, or Grahamtown Team, has been a leader in efforts to restore the neighborhood and has been building upon revitalization efforts that began in 2006.

For more information about Pisgah Legal’s work on this program, please contact PLS Managing Attorney Robin Merrell at (828) 253-0406. This work is generously supported by a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

PLS is hosting a free debt clinic for Grahamtown residents who are interested in clearing up credit and debt issues.

It will be held on January 15th from 6 to 8pm at New Bethel AME Zion Church. Advance registration is not required.