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Black History Month: The story of Dave Drake and he was known as Dave the Pottery

Feb 11, 2022

The story of Dave Drake and he was known as Dave the Pottery.


Eugene, a Black man is wearing a light green shirt and he is sitting in front of the blue background.

Ashley, a Black woman is wearing a faded black long sleeve shirt and she is standing in the front of the black background.

Antonie, a Black man is wearing light blue with a white outline on the shirt and he is sitting in the front of the red background.

Moni, a Black woman is wearing an orange shirt and she is sitting in front of the blue backround]


Hello Everyone. Hope you guys are doing Black History Month! Hope you are excited. I am excited too! We are inspired to share the story with you guys. This story is fantastic! The story is about the jars. The jars have the definition behind it. Each jar have their own ways of expressing the meaning of the jar. Where is the history of jars come from? Let's go back to history. Dave Drake was well known as Dave the Pottery. He was the first African-American that made jars. He was a slavery for white people and he could read and write during that time. Do you know how he knew how to read and write? Let's find out in this story. Watch the video!


Eugene: The South Carolina Hall of Fame was founded in Myrtle Beach, in 1973, to recognize and honor contemporary and past citizens who have made outstanding contributions to South Carolina heritage, history, and progress.

Eugene: David Drake was an enslaved African-American in Edgefield, ,South Carolina during the first three quarters of the 19th century. He’s known today for the magnificent pots that he made, the size of the pots that he made. And he wrote poems on some of his pots while the clay was still damp. This is important because at that time, it was crime, really, to teach slaves to read or to write.

Eugene: The Edgefield district of South Carolina was the center of a vibrant pottery industry in the early 1800s. The Landrum and Drake families ran a kiln at pottersville, just north of the town of Edgefield. Dave the potter was born into slavery in 1801 and was first owned by Harvey Drake. Probably the guy who taught him how to make pots. And the Drake family was a very forward-thing household. So it was probably in their household that he learned to read and write.

Eugene: In South Carolina before the Civil War, it was against the law to teach a slave to read and write. Nevertheless, Dave managed to become literate. It was a life-changing event, one that began to open the world and its mysteries to him. Dave was a master potter. And many of his stoneware creations were huge, some holding 25 to 40 gallons. Sometimes, at the stage of attaching the handles, he inscribed his name, Dave, in the wet clay. Soon, he was writing much more.

Eugene: “Put every bit all between surely this Jar will hold 14.” “This noble Jar will hold 20. Fill it with silver, then you’ll have plenty.”

Ashley: They are wonderful couplets, for the most part. There is usually a kind of wit and humor to them. For example, one that he wrote was “Oh the moon and stars, hard work to make big jars.”

Moni: In the 1830s, Dave worked for the Landrum family. Sometime in the 1840s, he became the property of Louis Miles. From then until the Civil War can be considered Dave’s golden age.

Antonie: And that’s when he does most of his work. He was writing regularly on jugs and on jars, especially large jugs and jars. If the pot was exceedingly wide and had a nice shape, then that was the one that he would bless, per se, with his– with a thought or with– or with a poem.

Antonie: “Dave belongs to Mr. Miles, where the oven bakes and the pot biles.”

Antonie: After the war, Dave adopted the surname Drake and continued to be known in Edgefields as a pottery turner. He had lost or injured a leg, possibly from a railroad accident. And he needed help to make his pots. Dave died sometime in the 1870s. Pottery making is a grueling process, which involves digging, grinding, liquefying,filtering, drying, miling, turning, firing, and glazing.

Ashley: He was in such a terrible situation. He had to make pots every day of his life. I mean, its drudgery, honestly. And he turned it into something extremely creative. And he managed to put his wit and his intelligence into those jars.

Moni: think natural beauty eveloves out of something that’s done repetitively. Pottery, of course, is a repetitive process. You would have to make thousands and thousands of pots. There is just a grace that you acquire when doing something over and over again, I think a flair even.

Moni: And he left something for us that we wonder at and we value and we appreciate. That was the most dangerous part, was that he signed them. There was no question about who wrote that poem, who made that pot, who could read, who could write, when it was not really the thing he was supposed to be doing. And he made sure we knew his name.


That's the story of Dave the Potter. I hope you guys enjoyed hearing and honoring his story as well. He sure did make thousands of pots with his poem craved on the pot. We would like to announce that BABDA will have its next event in the next two weeks. Please keep you guys update! See you later! (waving hand).