Nineteenth-century stoneware by enslaved and free potters living in Edgefield, South Carolina, highlights the central role of Black artists in the region's long-standing pottery traditions
This in-depth look at the remarkable alkaline-glazed stoneware from Edgefield, South Carolina, recenters the development of Southern pottery traditions around enslaved and free Black potters working in the mid-nineteenth century. The publication brings together more than 60 rarely seen works, including figural face jugs and slip-decorated pottery by known and unknown makers. Among the most remarkable works featured are masterpieces by David Drake, known as "Dave the Potter," who signed, dated, and incised verses on many of his jars, even though literacy among enslaved people was criminalized at the time. In addition to surfacing new scholarship on the production, collection, dispersal, and cultural significance of stoneware works from Edgefield, this publication also offers a critical examination of what it means to collect, exhibit, and interpret objects made by enslaved artisans. An interview with contemporary artist Simone Leigh, the US representative for the 2022 Venice Biennale, connects Edgefield vessels to present-day conversations about sculpture, identity, and visibility.