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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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Face jugs attributed to a slave potter in Edgefield, South Carolina, about 1850Face jugs attributed to a slave potter in Edgefield, South Carolina, about 1850

The origins of the face jug, a folk tradition among African American potters in the South, remain obscure. Some historians have linked these jugs to African ritual artifacts, others to imported European figural vessels. These two face jugs came to the Smithsonian in 1922 from the estate of a wealthy collector. At the time they received little attention from curators and were viewed as examples of "primitive" art. In the 1960s emerging scholarship in African American history inspired new interest in face jugs and the skilled slave potters who made them. The museum has since collected many examples of pottery from Edgefield, a center of nineteenth-century stoneware manufacture that relied heavily on slave labor, including jars made by the slave artisan David Drake.

See also: African American History, Ceramics, Folk Art

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