Carolina Clay: The Life and Legend of the Slave Potter, Dave
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A Press Release from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina

Exhibition Dates: September 9, 2022–February 5, 2023
Exhibition Location: The Met Fifth Avenue, Gallery 955, Robert Lehman Wing

The landmark exhibition Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina opens at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on September 9, 2022. Focusing on the work of African American potters in the 19th-century American South, in dialogue with contemporary artistic responses, the exhibition presents approximately 50 ceramic objects from Old Edgefield District, South Carolina, a center of stoneware production in the decades before the Civil War. It will include monumental storage jars by enslaved and literate potter and poet David Drake alongside rare examples of the region’s utilitarian wares, as well as enigmatic face vessels whose makers were unrecorded. Considered through the lens of current scholarship in the fields of history, literature, anthropology, material culture, diaspora, and African American studies, these 19th-century vessels testify to the lived experiences, artistic agency, and material knowledge of enslaved peoples.

The exhibition is made possible by Kathryn Ploss Salmanowitz, The Met’s Fund for Diverse Art Histories, the Terra Foundation for American Art, Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang, The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation, and the Henry Luce Foundation.

It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Exhibition Overview

While predominant explorations of American enslavement focus on agricultural production, this project offers a novel view of slavery in the industrial context by highlighting and celebrating works by African American potters from the period. Featuring many objects never before seen outside of the South, Hear Me Now is the first exhibition of its kind to originate in the Northeast that focuses on the contributions of enslaved potters, shining a light on one of the most brutal periods in American history. 

Augmented by a scholarly publication, robust audio content, and new scientific research, Hear Me Now represents a critical contribution to the field of American art. It aspires to link 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, such as Simone Leigh, Adebunmi Gbadebo, Woody De Othello, Theaster Gates, and Robert Pruitt.

The catalogue is made possible by the William Cullen Bryant Fellows of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Additional support is provided by Bridget and Al Ritter.

The Audio Guide is supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Education programs are made possible by Thelma and AC Hudgins.

Following the exhibition’s debut at The Met, it will travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (March 6– July 9, 2023), the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor (August 26, 2023 – January 7, 2024), and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta (February 16– May 12, 2024).

The exhibition is co-curated by Adrienne Spinozzi, Associate Curator of American Decorative Arts at The Met; Ethan Lasser, John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas at the MFA; and Jason Young, Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. A group of artists and scholars were engaged in the planning of the exhibition.

The exhibition is featured on the Museum's website, as well as on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.


May 16, 2022