John C. Campbell Folk School
John C. Campbell Folk School Historic District
|Nearest city||Brasstown, North Carolina|
|NRHP Reference #||83001839|
|Added to NRHP||August 22, 1983|
The John C. Campbell Folk School, also referred to as "The Folk School" is located near Brasstown, North Carolina. The school was founded to nurture and preserve the folk arts of the Appalachian Mountains, it is an non-profit adult educational organization based on non-competitive learning. Founded in 1925, the Folk School's motto is “I sing behind the plow”.
The Folk School has week-long and weekend classes year-round in traditional and contemporary arts, including blacksmithing, music, dance, cooking, gardening, nature studies, photography, storytelling and writing. The school is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The school campus includes a history museum, craft shop, nature trails, lodging, campground and cafeteria. The school also holds a regular concert series and community dances. The School hosts Morris Dance, Garland Dance and Clogging Teams.
History of the Folk School
After spending eighteen months traveling between Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, visiting local schools along the way, Olive Dame Campbell and her colleague Marguerite Butler, began forming the John C. Campbell Folk School in 1925 in Brasstown, North Carolina. This folk high school or folkehøjskole, was dedicated to her late husband, John C. Campbell and was based on the Danish Folk School style of non competitive education, where no grades were given. Instead, students and teachers formed a community that worked together to help each other advance in various crafts such as blacksmithing.
John C. Campbell, (1867–1919) was an American educator and reformer noted for his survey of social conditions in the southern Appalachia. He was born in Indiana and raised in Wisconsin; he studied education and theology in New England.
At the turn of the century, the Southern Appalachian region of the United States was viewed as being in need of educational and social missions. Recently married to Olive Dame of Massachusetts, John undertook a fact-finding survey of social conditions in the mountains in 1908-1909. The Campbells outfitted a wagon as a traveling home and studied mountain life from Georgia to West Virginia.
While John interviewed farmers about their agricultural practices, Olive collected Appalachian ballads and studied the handicrafts of the mountain people. Both were hopeful that the quality of life could be improved by education, and in turn, wanted to preserve and share with the rest of the world the crafts, techniques and tools that the people of the area used in everyday life.
The Folkehøjskole (folk high school) had long been a force in the rural life of Denmark. These schools for life helped transform the Danish countryside into a vibrant, creative force. The Campbells talked of establishing such a school in the rural southern United States as an alternative to the higher-education facilities that drew young people away from the family farm.
Several locations were under consideration for the experimental school. On an exploratory trip, Miss Butler discussed the idea with Fred O. Scroggs, Brasstown's local storekeeper, saying that she would be back in a few weeks to determine if area residents had any interest in the idea. When she returned, it was to a meeting of over 200 people at the local church. The people of far west North Carolina enthusiastically pledged labor, building materials and other support.
Class types offered
Craft classes include: Basketry; Carpentry; Glass beadmaking; Blacksmithing; Bookbinding; Broom Making; Dollmaking; Dyeing; Felt Making; Furniture Making; Lace; Leather; Metalwork; Needlework; Quilting; Rugs; Sewing; Soap Making; Spinning; Weaving; Woodturning; and Woodworking
Art classes include: Calligraphy; Clay; Drawing; Enameling; Glass; Jewelry; Kaleidoscopes; Knitting; Marbling; Mosaics; Painting; Paper Arts; Photography; Printmaking; Sculpture; and Woodcarving.
- Official website
- John C. Campbell Folk School on Facebook
- Official RSS feed
- Sing Behind the Plow: John C. Campbell Folk School (video from American Public Television)
- "A Basket Case in North Carolina," New York Times Magazine, May 20, 2007.
- Morris and Garland Teams of Brasstown