Mission Statement

The YMI Cultural Center elevates Black communities through cultural, economic and leadership development activities.

Our Foundation

Mr. Isaac Dickson and Dr. Edward Stephens approached George Vanderbilt in 1892 to provide an institution for the black construction workers employed at the Biltmore Estate “to improve the moral fiber of the black male through education focusing on social, cultural, business and religious life”. In 1893, the YMI’s doors opened. After efforts of the African American community, the Vanderbilt estate was paid $10,000 for the building in 1906. The center, known as the Young Men’s Institute or YMI was the true center of the civic, cultural and business life of Asheville’s black community. It featured a gym, bathing facilities, public library and classes for children and adults. By 1910, the organization had its own orchestra. The multi-use building was the center that Churches, schools and civic organizations used for gatherings, and a variety of businesses and institutions kept offices in the building, too.

While the YMI flourished during segregation, integration signaled a new era in the country and the YMI ceased to be the focal point of social life for Asheville’s African Americans. Following a period of decline in the 1960s and 1970s, a coalition of nine black churches, with the support of both the black and white communities, bought the YMI in 1980. The building was restored and re-established as the YMI Cultural Center. Since 1981, the YMI Cultural Center has developed a variety of cultural programs and exhibitions of art and artifacts from Asheville to Africa preserving the heritage of African Americans in Buncombe County. Today, the Young Men’s Institute (YMI) is arguably one of the nation’s oldest Historic African American institutions existing for 125 years.

In 1905, the YMI Board of directors raised $10,000 within six months to purchase the YMI from George Vanderbilt.

Over a century later, the YMI Board has just appointed its new Executive Director, Dewana Little to uphold the long-standing/ pre-determined commitment of the YMI’s predecessors to the African American Community. The YMI continues to be a preferred location for events, exhibitions, meetings and several local businesses. Thanks to the continued support of community and local government agencies we are still here and standing strong.

In 1905, the YMI Board of directors raised $10,000 within six months to purchase the YMI from George Vanderbilt.

Our Future…

Is the continued celebration of Black culture and the diversity within…