Isaiah Rice (1917–1980) was born in Asheville, North Carolina, to Theodore and Alberta Rice. A loving family man of deep faith, conviction, and responsibility, he married Asheville native Jeroline Bradley Rice in 1942, and they had one daughter, Marian Waters. He was educated at Stephens-Lee High School and made the best of opportunities available to him, including working for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression. Rice was drafted into the U.S. Army, and worked as a beverage deliveryman for a local distributor until his death in 1980.
When Rice was taking his photographs during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, Asheville’s African American community constituted a sizeable portion of the city’s population. The 1950 Census reports that 12,723 “nonwhite” people lived in urban Asheville, which amounted to 21.8 percent of the city’s population. By the 1960 census, the “nonwhite” population was 12,504, or 18.2 percent of the city’s population, and by 1970, Asheville’s “Negro or other races” population was 10,671, or 18.5 percent of the total urban population. In contrast to the African American population in urban Asheville, 1970 census figures for ten rural mountain counties near Asheville show an average African American population of 3.4 percent.
The photos in this online exhibit contain just a sample of the more than 1400 photos in the Isaiah Rice Photography Collection in UNCA's Special Collections. You can view more of them at the Isaiah Rice Photograph Collection.
To view this online exhibit, click on the arrows to at the side of the image to go to the next image.