Papers document Richards's work as a scholar and teacher of English literature, her work as 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 in 1945, a school that had a formative
role in postwar American art. 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 1947-1948. 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. In 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 1949-1951, 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.