In the early to mid-1800s, when the man known as David Drake was enslaved in South Carolina, he suffered the loss of family members and friends who were sold at auctions and taken away.
Today, the work that Drake, also known as Dave the Potter, created in clay and in words is sold at high-end auctions to collectors and cultural institutions that appreciate both his artistry and the original poetry he often inscribed on his pots. He is widely considered one of the most accomplished artisans of the antebellum period.
"Dave's creations are considered some of the most masterful pots of the 19th century," says P. Gabrielle Foreman, Ned Allen Professor of English and professor of Black American studies at UD. "They're now in collections at museums and galleries across the United States. ... But this is a story that has gone mostly untold. Many, many people are unaware of Dave the Potter."
Foreman, Lynnette Overby, professor of theatre and then-director of the Undergraduate Research Program at UD, and additional colleagues set out to change that.
This past academic year, the life and accomplishments of Dave the Potter were brought to life in a unique collaboration among University faculty members and students, young people in the area and several noted artists who hail from Drake's South Carolina. The results, shared with scholars, schoolchildren and the general public, involve original poetry, a musical score and paintings, all used in an ambitious performance piece.