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Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina
Explore an untold chapter in American history
Focusing on the work of Black potters in the 19th-century American South, this landmark exhibition presents approximately 60 ceramic objects from Old Edgefield District, South Carolina, a center of stoneware production in the decades before the Civil War, together with contemporary responses.
“Hear Me Now” tells a story about art and enslavement—and about the joy, struggle, creative ambition, and lived experience of African Americans in the decades before the Civil War. The exhibition features many objects never before seen outside of the South, bringing together monumental storage jars by the enslaved and literate potter and poet Dave, later recorded as David Drake (about 1800–about 1870), with rare examples of the region’s utilitarian wares and powerful face vessels by unrecorded makers.
It also links past to present, in part by including the work of leading contemporary Black artists who have responded to or whose practice resonates with the Edgefield story. Established figures like Theaster Gates and Simone Leigh, as well as younger, emerging artists like Adebunmi Gbadebo, Woody De Othello, and Robert Pruitt, have contributed to the show. Working primarily in clay, these artists respond to the legacy of the Edgefield potters and consider the resonance of this history for audiences today.
Co-organized with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication and informed by new scientific research. The show will additionally travel to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor, and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
“Forged by hand with common soil, ‘Hear Me Now’ reaches across generations to make a broken story whole.”
- Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery (Gallery 184)
Adebunmi Gdadebo, K.S., 2021
Dave (later recorded as David Drake), storage jar, 1857
____________ (Potter once known), face jug, attributed to the Miles Mill Pottery, 1867–85
____________ (Potter once known), likely enslaved at Rhodes, Ramey & Gibbs (1838–39); N. Ramey & Company (1839–40); J. W. Gibbs & Company (1840); or J. Gibbs & Company (1840–43), jug, about 1840s, reconstructed 2012
____________ (Potter once known), likely enslaved at Phoenix Stone Ware Factory (about 1840), and Thomas M. Chandler Jr., watercooler, about 1840
Simone Leigh, Jug, 2022
Dave (later recorded as David Drake), jug, 1853
Robert Pruitt, Birth and Rebirth and Rebirth, 2019
_______ (Woodlands potter once known), bowl, about 1500
Dave (later recorded as David Drake), storage jar, 1834
____________ (Potter once known), face jug, 1850–80
Dave (later recorded as David Drake), storage jar, 1858
Audio Tour on MFA Mobile
A visitor with Jug (2022) by Simone Leigh. Glazed stoneware. Collection of the artist. © Simone Leigh, Courtesy Matthew Marks Gallery.
Artists, historians, and an archeologist reflect on the work and lives of the Black potters of Old Edgefield, and consider how the potters’ legacies reverberate today. Before you visit, download the app onto your smartphone from Apple’s App Store or Google Play, or access it on the web. For the best audio experience in the galleries, remember to bring your ear buds or headphones.
June 22, 2023
6:00 pm–6:40 pm