Finding Aid for the Sue Spayth Riley Papers, 1937 - 1942, PC.1922


Finding Aid for the Sue Spayth Riley Papers, 1937 - 1942, PC.1922


Sue Spayth (subsequently Sue Spayth Riley) was a student at Black Mountain College until 1940.
Her papers contain manuscripts, typescripts, photographs, and printed items, such as letters, essays, theater programs relating to her work and study, primarily at Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, North Carolina) during the years 1937-1940. Correspondence in this collection continues until 1942. It includes letters from college friends (principally Phyllis S. Josephs and Robert M. Sunley), and also relates to work done for at Woods Hole, Mass.

Descriptive Summary

Sue Spayth Riley Papers
Call Number
Riley, Sue Spayth
1937 - 1942
133.00 items
Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

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    Restrictions on Access & Use

    Access Restrictions

    Available for research.

    Use Restrictions

    Copyright is retained by the authors of these materials, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law (Title 17 US Code). Individual researchers are responsible for using these materials in conformance with copyright law as well as any donor restrictions accompanying the materials.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], PC.1922, Sue Spayth Riley Papers, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina, Raleigh, NC, USA.

    Biographical Note

    Sue Spayth Riley, daughter of George W. and Annis (Salsbury) Spayth, was born at Houston, Texas, and was brought up in New Jersey where her father was editor and publisher of a chain of weekly newspapers issued from the towns of Dunellen, New Market, South Plainfield, and Middlesex, N.J. She was given a progressive education at the Modern School in Stelton, N.J. She attended a public high school in Dunellen, N.J., before entering in January, 1938.

    Having strong leanings toward writing, dramatics, and dancing, Miss Spayth chose the field of dramatics when she entered the senior division of Black Mountain College in the fall semester of 1939. In addition to roles played in the annual student/faculty Thanksgiving entertainments of 1939 and 1940, she played the part of Gunhild Borkman in the college production of Ibsen's play, at the close of 1939, and early in 1940, the role of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare's tragedy. Long interested in developments in modern dance, Miss Spayth taught a dance class at the college during 1940. Economic conditions obliged her to terminate her studies at the college in December, 1940. Miss Spayth later earned her bachelor of arts degree at Goddard College, Vermont, and her master's at the University of North Carolina, both in early childhood education.

    Black Mountain College was an experimental school located in Black Mountain, N.C. Established in 1933 by John A. Rice and others, the purpose of the college was to educate the whole person, with an emphasis on the role of the arts and creative thinking. Despite the fact that Black Mountain College could rarely offer faculty more than room and board, a number of important teachers and artists were drawn to the school as part of the regular faculty or to participate in the school's Summer Institutes. Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Max Dehn, Joseph Fiore, Buckminister Fuller, Edward Lowinsky, Robert Motherwell, Charles Olson, M.C. Richards, and Xanti Schawinsky were only a few of those who taught at Black Mountain College. In addition, the success of several of the college's students (such as Ruth Asawa, Edward Dorn, Kenneth Noland, and Robert Rauschenberg) helped to further the college's reputation in the area of the arts and the avant garde.

    The character and focus of Black Mountain College shifted over time, according to the make-up of the faculty and students. Personal and ideological conflicts were common and sometimes lead to major changes in the college community. Lack of funds added to the stress of the situation, as did the school's physical isolation and its sometimes strained relations with the local population. Eventually, the student enrollment and available funds dwindled until the college was forced to close in 1956.

    Contents of the Collection

    Subject Headings

  1. Rice, John Andrew, b. 1888.
  2. Riley, Sue Spayth, 1920-
  3. Wolpert, Jeremiah Frederick, 1920-1949.
  4. Rice, John Andrew, 1888-
  5. Riley, Sue Spayth, 1920-
  6. Jeremiah Frederick Wolpert, 1920-1949
  7. Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.)
  8. Dance--Study and teaching--North Carolina--History--20th century.
  9. Drama--Study and teaching--North Carolina--History--20th century.
  10. Theater.
  11. Dance
  12. Education, Humanistic
  13. Theater
  14. Drama
  15. Black Mountain (N.C.)
  16. Acquisitions Information

    Gift, Sue Spayth Riley, Black Mountain, N.C., 2002. During March-April, 2012, these records were moved from the State Archives building in Raleigh to the Western Regional Archives, Asheville, N.C.

    Processing Information

  17. Processed by George Stevenson, August 18, 2003
  18. Encoded by Fran Tracy-Walls, September 16, 2003