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Sue Spayth Riley Papers


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 The Biological Bulletin at Woods Hole, Mass.

Title

Sue Spayth Riley Papers

Collection Number

PC.1922

Date(s)

1937 - 1942

Language

English

Physical Description
Genre/Physical Characteristic

Manuscripts

Genre/Physical Characteristic

Photographs

Genre/Physical Characteristic

Letters

Genre/Physical Characteristic

Essays

Genre/Physical Characteristic

Bulletins

Genre/Physical Characteristic

Programs

Physical Description
Items
133
Genre/Physical Characteristic

Includes manuscripts, typescripts, photographs, and printed items (letters, essays, theater programs, bulletins, pamphlets, and class papers).

Physical Description
Items
133.00
Abstract

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  The Biological Bulletin at Woods Hole, Mass.

Physical Location

For current information on the location ofthese materials, please consult the Western Regional Archives.

Physical Location

WRA:5A06

Creator

Riley, Sue Spayth

Repository

Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina


Available for research.


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.


Processed by George Stevenson, August 18, 2003

Encoded by Fran Tracy-Walls, September 16, 2003


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 Black Mountain College 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,  "John Gabriel Borkman" 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.


Sue Spayth Riley, Black Mountain, N.C., 2002


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


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.


Black Mountain College Records


Additional information on topics found in this collection may be found in the Manuscript and Archives Reference System (MARS) at  http://www.ncarchives.dcr.state.nc.us

  1.  PC.1678, Martin Duberman Collection, 1933-1980.
  2.  North Carolina Museum of Art, Black Mountain College Research Project, 1933-1973.

Correspondence in this collection ranges in date from 1937 to 1942.The earliest correspondence relates to plans for entering Black MountainCollege, while the remainder is, for the most part, from college friends(principally from Phyllis S. Josephs and Robert M. Sunley). The 1942correspondence relates almost entirely to work done for  The Biological Bulletin at Woods Hole, Mass. Photographs in the collection include some from the dance class she taught, casual photographs of students at Black Mountain College, photographs made at the time of the college productions of  "Macbeth", and photographic portraits of Miss Spayth. Also among the papers will be found two summaries of her experience at Black Mountain College during the school years 1938/39 and 1939/40.

Publications in the collection include college bulletins and catalogs,theatre programs from productions mounted at the college in which Miss Spayth(or her first husband, Jerry Wolpert) had roles, and a reprint from  Harper's Magazine (May, 1937) of John A. Rice's article,  "Fundamentalism and the Higher Learning". Student essays in the collection are from Miss Spayth's drama studies during her senior division work, 1939 and 1940. The student writings, on the other hand, are from her coursework under Rice and others at the college. (There are a few pieces that either pre-date or post-date her studies at Black Mountain College.) An empty small three-ring notebook in full morocco, used by Miss Spayth at Black Mountain College, completes the collection.


  • Rice, John Andrew, b. 1888.
  • Riley, Sue Spayth, 1920-
  • Wolpert, Jeremiah Frederick, 1920-1949.
  • Rice, John Andrew, 1888-
  • Riley, Sue Spayth, 1920-
  • Jeremiah Frederick Wolpert, 1920-1949
  • Black Mountain College (Black Mountain, N.C.)
  • Dance--Study and teaching--North Carolina--History--20th century.
  • Drama--Study and teaching--North Carolina--History--20th century.
  • Theater.
  • Dance
  • Education, Humanistic
  • Theater
  • Drama
  • Black Mountain (N.C.)