Pottery by David Drake, a Slave Craftsman in Edgefield, S.C. – NYTimes.com
Newly discovered vessels by David Drake, an enslaved 19th-century potter in Edgefield, S.C., keep emerging, either whole or in shards. He signed his pots “Dave” and added witty couplets that sometimes praised the very “noble jar” on which they were inscribed or expressed his longing to see the stars or lost family members. He helped run his owners’ kilns, each of which measured about 100 feet long and required 10 tons of firewood a day.
A nearly complete documentary, “Discovering Dave — Spirit Captured in Clay,” from Scrapbook Video Productions in Augusta, Ga., is based partly on a smashed 1862 Drake pot that the Savannah River Archaeological Research Program excavated near Augusta.
The vessel has been reassembled, and the research program’s coordinator, George Wingard, brings it to lectures and lets the public touch the signature. Drake also left traces of his presence along the rim.“You can see the markings where his hands, his fingers, were in there,” said Mark Albertin, a producer of the film with Mr. Wingard. Archaeological studies around Edgefield, led by the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, have yielded ghosts of kilns and bagfuls of pottery shards. When students were cleaning one ordinary-looking fragment, it revealed the word “you,” etched in Drake’s firm cursive.