This massive storage jar was made by Dave Drake, one of the many individuals enslaved at the pottery plantations of the Edgefield District of South Carolina. Dave first enslaver was Abner Landrum (1780-1859) who has been credited with establishing the first pottery in the Edgefield District during the 1810s. Later he was enslaved by the pottery proprietor Lewis Miles (ca. 1809-1868). One side of this jar is inscribed “L.m. nover 3, 1858/ Dave.” The other is marked “I saw a leopard & a lions face/ then I felt the need – of grace,” an adaptation from the Book of Revelations.
Of the nearly 3000 enslaved craftsmen who have been identified by MESDA, David Drake is the only one whose work we can positively identify. Despite laws prohibiting literacy among slaves, Drake was taught to read and write. His pots – more than 150 signed examples are known – testify to both his literacy and his skill as an artist.