“Swannanoa Tunnel,” also known as “Asheville Junction” and “Swannanoa Town,” is an American folk song that originated during the late 19th century as a work song. Thousands of incarcerated laborers—most of whom were Black men unjustly arrested under Jim Crow laws put in place as an extension of slavery—labored under deadly conditions to lay track and cut several tunnels through the mountains in the late 1870s. An estimated 125–300 convicts, many of whom were innocent of their crimes or minor offenders, died during the construction of these tunnels. White folklorists and banjo players adapted the song and kept it circulating through the 20th century, obscuring its African American origins.

The Swannanoa Gap Tunnel, an 1,832-foot-long railway tunnel through Swannanoa Mountain near Asheville, was completed March 11, 1879 and remains there today.

In the video below, local Asheville musician and artist Leeda "Lyric" Jones performs a powerful rendition of "Swannanoa Tunnel" as we remember the innocent Black lives lost in the name of progress.