Supporting the War

One of many on-campus dances at the Lake Eden Campus. Fun activities were held on campus during the war to keep individuals from leaving campus. This was intended to conserve gas.
Courtesy of Western Regional ArchivesFig. 1

The faculty and students at Black Mountain College (BMC) supported the war in any way that they could. The inhabitants of Black Mountain College frequently included any war related information in their bulletins, whether it be listing individuals who were recently enlisted or drafted or updating contact information so students and staff could continue writing letters to folks who were in the military. This was such a frequent occurrence in the school bulletin that the update on the activities Private Eric Barnetz and Ensign Bela Martin—students of the college—and the mailing address of Private John Evarts—a professor at the college—was quite common.[1] Indeed, such things could be found in a great number of the school bulletins that were put out during the war. Naturally, a professor or student who wished to join the armed forces or help the government with wartime research was given a leave by the school. The school also sought to honor those who died in service, such as Roman Maciejczyk, a former student.[2] In the case of Maciejczyk, the school even set up a scholarship fund in his honor.[3]

The faculty could frequently be found in their meetings discussing upcoming activities that they were planning for the patients of Moore General Hospital, the military hospital down the road from the college.[4] In an effort to boost morale and the spirits of injured military persons, professors and students of the college would visit the hospital to perform dramas, musical entertainment, and lectures. BMC also participated in book drives, gathering books to send to military camps and hospitals.[5]

Black Mountain College Newsletter, College Support of the war.
Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 2

BMC’s overwhelming support for the war can be seen in the speeches of its faculty. Robert Wunch, dramatics instructor and then-rector of the college, remained a firm proponent of the importance of education for those who were to participate in war, emphasizing the importance of the type of liberal, free-thinking education that BMC provided, “You will have to decide how to help to create out of the fragments made by modern war a new civilization […] If civilization is to continue in this country it must continue largely through the wisdom and the devotion of you and your contemporaries in other colleges. Independent, hard-headed, clear thinking people can make this spot in the world vibrant and alive with learning and understanding.”[6] In the same newsletter put out by BMC, Heinrich Jalowetz, a European refugee, further stresses the importance of fighting and winning the war, “Today fate and convictions split the whole globe into two parts. Masses of men and machines fight each other. Those who survive must rebuild a world out of ruins. And this world can neither continue those patterns which have led to this catastrophe, nor destroy completely the cultural and human values our ancestors have created. Our hopes for the future can be realized only by men who know real freedom, inner freedom: freedom form prejudice, freedom from selfishness.”[7] BMC professor and refugee from Germany’s Bauhaus Institution, Josef Albers also showed his support for the war. Urging listeners at a Black Mountain Conference to participate in war efforts, Albers discussed the necessity of understanding these threats to freedom and the obligation to defend freedom through a democratic education such as was found at Black Mountain College.[8]

BMC Farm Report. As part of the war effort, the college grew as much of its own food as possible.
Courtesy of Western Regional Archives.Fig. 3

In an effort to ensure that as much food and supplies as possible went towards war efforts, the campus also took other steps to make the school more self-sufficient. In agreement with the U.S. government Farm Expansion policy, the school agreed to increase the size of the farm and livestock as much and as fast as feasibly possible.[9] In addition to growing much of their own produce, meat, and milk, the school also applied for ration books with the local bank.[10] The college also made do with the gas shortage that plagued the nation—anyone going into town or off campus for any reason was encourage to car pool. Students and staff were also asked to make such trips when absolutely necessary.[11] Instead of going into the town of Black Mountain or making the drive all the way into Asheville City proper simply for fun, the inhabitants of the college decided to make their own entertainment right on the campus. Parties were frequently held on campus to distract from the stresses of everyday life and to keep morale up. Students and faculty alike participated in these festivities.[12]

The faculty and students who remained on the campus during the war were clearly eager to show their support in any way that they could. Whether they were conserving food and gas, taking up book donations to send to troops, putting on productions at the local military hospital for wounded soldiers, enlisting with the military or the government to help, or encouraging those who had already joined, BMC fully joined the rest of the country in fighting to keep freedom and democracy safe.


[1] Black Mountain College Community Bulletin, Bulletin 8, November 18, 1942, Black Mountain College Papers, Box 27, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina

[2] Black Mountain College Community Bulletin, Bulletin 13, January 3, 1943, Black Mountain College Papers, Box 27, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[3] Black Mountain College Community Bulletin, Bulletin 13, January 3, 1943.

[4] Faculty Minutes November 18, 1942, Black Mountain College Collection, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[5] Black Mountain College Community Bulletin, Bulletin 14, January 18, 1943, Black Mountain College Papers, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[6] BMC Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 17 November 1942, Black Mountain College Papers, Box 26, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[7] BMC Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 17-November 1942.

[8] Joseph Albers, Address for the Black Mountain College Meeting, June 12, 1940, Black Mountain College Research Project, Box 12, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[9] Faculty Minutes December 17th, 1941, Black Mountain College Collection, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[10] Faculty Minutes March 16, 1943, Black Mountain College Collection, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[11] Faculty Minutes November 4, 1942, Black Mountain College Collection, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

[12] Mary Emma Harris, “Education in a Time of War,” in The Arts at Black Mountain College, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002.

Fig. 1 College Life-Dances, Black Mountain College Research Project, Box 90, Folder 11, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

Fig. 2 Black Mountain College Newsletter, Number 16, November 19, 1941, Black Mountain College Papers, Box 16, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.

Fig. 3 Farm Report, Black Mountain College Papers, Treasurer’s Records, Box 5, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
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