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 Morton Jerome Steinau   

Date of birth:

Production Traffic Manager, Time/Life
Insurance agent

1934-35 Spring

Graduation: 1939, English Literature
Examiner: C.F. Tucker Brooke, Yale University

Acting Assistant Treasurer, January-June 1939
Assistant Treasurer, June 5, 1939 - January1943

Barbara Hill Steinau


Soon after Morton Steinau graduated from Louisville Male High School in Kentucky in January 1935, he and Bela Martin, another graduate, hitchhiked in bitter April weather from Louisville to Black Mountain College where Robert Wunsch was teaching English. They remained for two months.

Before joining the Black Mountain faculty, Wunsch had taught English in Louisville, and Steinau recalled his introducing them to authors such as Shakespeare, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Zora Neale Hurston and Ernest Hemingway. He would meet with a group of five or six students at the Y.M.C.A. where he had a room to discuss literature and drama. The appreciative seniors dedicated their high school annual to him. Although Steinau had little expectation that he would be able to attend college, Black Mountain accepted him at a greatly reduced fee.

Steinau recalled that he was impressed by very small college as well as the "huge" Y.M.C.A buildings in which it was housed. Having grown up in a community where everyone was alike, the diversity of the community – refugees speaking broken English, people who "didn’t believe in Jesus Christ," others with "different kinds of skin," those who smoked cigarettes and drank whiskey – were an intriguing new "menu."

At Black Mountain Steinau took a general curriculum: John Rice’s Plato and Greek classes, chemistry, ethics, literature, dramatics, philosophy, dance, music, and writing. He recalled that the only Greek he learned in Rice’s Greek class was the first sentence of the Bible. Otherwise, the class was much like the Plato class in which various themes were discussed. His primary study was literature with Joseph Martin, his graduation advisor.

In his last year as a student at Black Mountain, Steinau was Acting Assistant Treasurer. When he graduated, he was appointed Assistant Treasuer. He travelled to Laguna Beach, California that summer where he and Barbara Hill, a Black Mountain student, were married. They then returned to the college where they lived until January 1943 when they decided the time had come to make a break with their college home. Their daughter Joan was born in 1940 and the second of their three children was due.

On leaving Black Mountain, Steinau worked with Time/Life as traffice manager in the Production Department at the Cameo Press in Philadelphia, where the magazines were printed. The Steinaus lived for a year in Philadelphia and then for nine years in Palmyra, New Jersey, across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. When he left Time/Life, the Steinaus moved to Connecticut where he had a handmade furniture business, hoping to support his family. After two years, he entered the life insurance business. He retired in 1978.

Morton and Barbara Steinau lived for five years at the East River Farm, a commune, in Guilford, Connecticut. When Barbara Hill Steinau retired at age seventy from her position as director of a pre-school, the Steinaus moved to Cape Cod. At that time the Gulf War was underway and the Steinaus organized a vigil, an effective introduction to the community. They have organized a bartering co-op, and stage antimilitary protests and protests against American wars including the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

The Steinaus presently live on Cape Cod. In the summer, they rent their house and camp in the United States and Canada.














Steinau at Black Mountain College. Photo courtesy North Carolina State Archives, Black Mountain  College Papers, 58.3 (detail).

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