Mary Parks Washington, Dancing Woman, 1946. Mixed media collage. Collection of Jan Washington.

Mary Parks Washington, Untitled (Black Mountain College histcollage), ca.1995. Mixed media / watercolor and newsprint on paper. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of the Artist.

Mary Parks Washington (Student 1946 Summer Session) (b.1924-d.2019)

My mentor and teacher, Hale Woodruff, at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, informed me that I had been awarded a Rosenwald scholarship to Black Mountain College in North Carolina for the summer of 1946. Mr. Woodruff explained that Black Mountain was the setting for creative experiences with a unique set of principles: no course hours, no credit points or tests. Faculty and students not only maintained the campus, they ran a farm and constructed the college buildings. Black Mountain promised to be quite the opposite of Spelman, a woman’s college headed by Florence Reid, whose expectations of students were like those of Mount Holyoke College, her alma mater.

I grew up in a very formal atmosphere of rules, curriculums, and protocols. Atlanta in those days was a segregated city, and it was different, if not impossible, for mind and spirit to operate freely in such a system. Only on the campuses of black colleges was free association between black and white citizens possible – chapel programs, convocation with outstanding scholars, museums, and artists – all added richness and challenge in the minds and spirits of the participants.

I arrived at Black Mountain with my new dungarees specially purchased for the occasion because I had never worn pants. I settled in a dormitory with several other young women and was thrilled with my individual studio.

 – Mary Parks Washington, excerpt from “New Dungarees,” In The North Carolina Literary Review (The Black Mountain College Issue), Vol. II, No. 2 (1995)