Black Mountain College
Situated in Buncombe County, North Carolina, the community of Black Mountain took its name from the mountain range wherein it nestles. The Black Mountains are a part of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Southern Appalachians, which extend into West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. Black Mountain is about fifteen miles east of Asheville.
The population of the village of Black Mountain was about 750 in 1933 when John Andrew Rice, Jr. (1888-1968), and several other dedicated individuals founded the experimental Black Mountain College. Rice served as its first rector. Rice’s father, a Methodist minister, had been the president of Columbia College in Columbia, South Carolina, and a founding faculty member of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. Rice’s mother was Annabelle Smith, the sister of U.S. senator Ellison Durant (“Cotton Ed”) Smith. Rice took many ideas for teaching from Webb School, the college preparatory boarding school that he attended (1905-1908) in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Rice advocated classroom discussion techniques, student-centered teaching, and a minimum of formal lecture.
A graduate of Tulane University, Rice received a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University. At Oxford, he met Frank Aydelotte, who would later be a president of Swarthmore College, and Frank’s sister Nell Aydelotte. Rice married Nell in 1914 after his Oxford graduation; they had two children before their divorce and...
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