Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina
Confront the past and celebrate the creative voices of an untold chapter of American history.
Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina is a landmark exhibition of more than 60 objects representing the work of African American potters in the decades surrounding the Civil War.
It is a reckoning with the central role that enslaved and free Black potters played in the long-standing stoneware traditions of Edgefield, South Carolina. It is also an important story about the unrelenting power of artistic expression and creativity, even while under the brutal conditions of slavery—and about the joy, struggle, creative ambition, and lived experience of African Americans in the 19th-century American South.
The exhibition features many objects rarely 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), along with rare examples of the region’s utilitarian wares and powerful face vessels by potters once known but unrecorded.
The inclusion of several contemporary works from leading Black artists links the past to the present in Hear Me Now. Established figures like Theaster Gates and Simone Leigh, as well as younger, emerging artists like Adebunmi Gbadebo, and Woody De Othello have contributed to the exhibition. Working primarily in clay, these artists respond to the legacy of the Edgefield potters and consider the resonance of this history for audiences today.
Hear Me Now is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, with support from the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation.
Lead support for UMMA’s presentation of Hear Me Now is provided by Michigan Engineering, the U-M Office of the Provost, the U-M Office of the President, the Americana Foundation, the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the U-M Inclusive History Project, and Michigan Humanities. Additional generous support is provided by Larry and Brenda Thompson and Melissa Kaish and Jonathan Dorfman.