Today in Ceramic Art History: David Drake

by Gregory Lastrapes
May 3, 2019

Today we reflect on a pot made exactly 157 years ago by David Drake (c. 1801-1870), an enslaved ceramist working on a plantation pottery in the Edgefield District of South Carolina in the United States. Drake was one of many slaves who worked as “turners” throwing utilitarian wares on the wheel. Though much of the history of these turners remains obscure, Drake signed and dated his work. Furthermore, many of Drake’s pots are inscribed with original poetry, which is exceptional considering the illegality of being a literate slave at the time. The pot (see images, below) is inscribed, “I made this jar all of cross, If you don’t repent you will be lost,” which is likely a reference to biblical text. The opposing side bears Drake’s signature, “May 3, 1862/LM Dave.” 

Jar by "Dave," 1862, courtesy of The National Museum of American HistoryJar by "Dave," 1862, courtesy of The National Museum of American History

Images and information courtesy of The National Museum of American History. “Jar Made by ‘Dave.’” Thrown and incised stoneware with ash glaze. The National Museum of American History Collections, 996.0344.01.

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