Black Mountain College was a radical experiment given its time and location, where the close collaboration between students and faculty on both academics and the working groups that all participated in equally fostered a close-knit community as well as a spirit of camaraderie and volunteerism. It is therefore not surprising that so many alumni and faculty would support the war effort. Among those who left the college to contribute to the fight against fascism, this section will focus on two professors and two students. One professor would join the Army and eventually become the Director of the International Institute for Comparative Music studies in West Berlin, another would join a Civilian Defense Research Project, while both students would join the Army Air Corps only to tragically die in separate flight training crashes only eight months apart.
Professor John Evarts was a founding member of the Black Mountain College faculty, an instructor of music who was trained in violin and piano. He actively engaged with his students and earned his peers’ respect. One student who he remembered fondly was a former advisee named Derek Bovingdon. Bovingdon was a well-loved student who formed genuine relationships with many around him, and he eventually married a fellow student named Barbara Sieck. While his first semester at Black Mountain focused primarily on the arts, he quickly branched out into such diverse studies as Political Theory, Mechanical Drawing, and Educational Sociology. In his third year at the school, he took a General Physics course with a professor who would become his new advisor, Charles Lindsley.
Dr. Charles Lindsley had graduated from Princeton and held a position at the Cancer Research Institution under the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, but his dream was to teach. After hearing of Black Mountain College and inquiring about employment he had met with Professor Evarts in New York for an interview, and he was formally offered a position in 1938 – the same year that Bovingdon had been accepted. Another student accepted that year was Roman Maciejczyk, who had come to the attention of Professor Evarts after a recommendation from his supervisor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where he’d been employed.
Roman Maciejczyk could be seen as representative of the ideals that brought all of the various people who participated in the school together. Noted as an enthusiastic worker who also excelled in his studies – which included Music Appreciation and Piano lessons with Evarts and ranged into Advanced Economics, but focused on linguistics (primarily French and German). He was friendly to all, and remained so well-connected to the school after his departure that letters giving updates on the progression of his training to be a pilot were published in the Black Mountain College Community Bulletin. Perhaps one of the best indicators of Maciejczyk’s character is that in the final days of his life he made a donation from his meager Army pay towards the construction of the new Studies Building.
In 1941, all four were members of the small but vibrant community – living and working side by side – and then one after another they went their separate ways to join the fight. By late 1943 both Bovingdon and Maciejczyk had perished and Lindsley was attempting to coordinate a memorial scholarship fund while working at the University of Virginia. None of the four would ever rejoin the community, but they all left indelible marks upon that body.
Fig. 1 Tom Leonard, John Evarts Playing Piano. Black Mountain College Papers, Faculty Files, Box 2, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
Fig. 2 BMC Newsletter, No. 16 November 1941, Black Mountain College Papers, Box 26, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.
Fig. 3 Students and Faculty Eligible for Conscription as of October 6, 1940, Black Mountain College Papers,Treasurer’s Files, Box 4, Western Regional Archives, State Archives of North Carolina.