Sunday, May 05, 2013

Dave the Slave, up close and personal

Back in November of 2009, I posted an interview with author Leonard Todd, discussing the subject of his book, Carolina Clay, the Life and Legend of Slave Potter Dave. The book is a fascinating account of Todd's discovery that one particularly skilled South Carolina potter was a slave owned by members of his family. He did not know that when he first read about an exhibition of Dave's work in a New York Times article in January of 2000. 

From the interview, which can be read here, Todd explained:
That moment of discovery was like finding a door flung wide to the past: Through it, I could glimpse a complex world of clay and kilns and pottery workersthat I had known nothing of. I was pleased to find that I was linked to Dave, one of the south's great artisans, yet dismayed that slavery was the mechanism that connected us. 
Flash forward to the year 2013. I had forgotten that certain examples of Dave's pottery were on display in select museums. At the time I read Todd's book, and interviewed him, I had no plans to travel to South Carolina, a state I had never visited until last month when the Civil War Forum held its 17th Battlefield Conference in Charleston. One of the stops on the first day of our gathering was a tour of the Civil War collection at the Charleston Museum, the oldest museum in America. 

It was tremendously exciting to turn a corner and see a display of local pottery, inscribed by the potters. I was hoping Dave's work would be featured, and sure enough, it was.  .  .  It's a great museum—set aside some time to visit, if you have the opportunity.

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