Papers document Richards's work as a
scholar and teacher of English literature, her a poet, potter, and translator, and finally
her lectures, workshops, and writings in art education. The papers emphasize the 1940s and
1950s, the period during which Richards taught at Black Mountain College.
Mary Caroline ("M.C.") Richards, self-described "teacher, writer, lecturer, potter, poet,"
was born in 1916, and received her Ph.D. in English from the University of California at
Berkeley in 1942. She taught English both at Berkeley and at the University of Chicago
before joining the faculty of Black Mountain College in Asheville, North Carolina, a school
that had a formative role in postwar American art in 1945. She and her husband Bill Levi
became prominent members of the Black Mountain community; she in writing and literature, he
in philosophy and as rector from 1947 to 1948. In 1948 Richards and her students started the
Black Mountain Press which they used for literary publications and to print Richards's first
volume of poetry. That same year she met the composer John Cage, who had just joined the
summer faculty and who that summer produced Erik Satie's play Le Piége
de Méduse, performed by Buckminster Fuller and Merce Cunningham, directed by
Arthur Penn, and translated by M.C. Richards. Richards served as chair of the faculty from
1949 to 1951, participating actively in the many conflicts between various factions in
administration and faculty. She was instrumental in bringing the poet Charles Olson to the
faculty in 1951. He served as rector from 1953 until the college closed in 1956.
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