The film is based on the life of the Edgefield, South Carolina, slave named David Drake who created pottery in the 1800s. The documentary was released in September 2013 and has been making the rounds at film festivals ever since. Most recently it was screened at the Beaufort International Film Festival, where it was nominated for a Best Documentary award.
“It’s a very moving documentary as it tells the story of a slave, a human being who existed within a brutal system of oppression, but perhaps found a certain freedom through creative expression,” said Tina Monaco, the assistant to the director at the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library.
Produced by filmmaker Mark Albertin of Scrapbook Video Productions and archeologist George Wingard of the Savannah River Archaeological Research program over a period of two years, the film gives insight to the man known simply as Dave through in-depth interviews from artists, scholars, writers, historians and archaeologists.
David Drake produced thousands of pots in his lifetime, some of which were inscribed with verses and signed by Dave himself. Considering that at the time it was taboo for slaves to read and write, personalizing a work like that may seem like a ballsy move.
“We think he was born about 1801,” explained Wingard. “Probably around 1809-1810 may have been when he started to learn to read and write. The idea is that one of the two gentlemen who built Pottersville, Harvey Drake and Abner Landrum — Harvey Drake was Dave’s owner and Abner Landrum was Harvey Drake’s uncle. Together they built Pottersville. It is believed that Abner Landrum may have gone up to Philadelphia and met someone who had some liberal ideas about teaching slaves to read and write and they brought that idea back to Pottersville-Edgefield. Dave may have learned at that time.”
In 2006, while out excavating at the Savannah River Site, Wingard and the team working with him uncovered fragments of a broken “Dave jar,” Wingard said. They reassembled the jar and began using it as an outreach tool. The reactions to the jar led to the inspiration to make the documentary.
“One of the first times we took it out, what I found interesting was there were two kinds of schools of thought,” Wingard said. “You had people who said, ‘That’s a Dave pot. It’s worth a lot of money. Do you want to sell it?’ And then you had folks going, ‘I’ve never heard of Dave. I don’t know who he is.’ You know, there is such a great story in between there — Dave, who he was, what he did — this would be really interesting.”
Shortly after that Wingard teamed up with Albertin and began working on the film and the rest, as they say, is history. The screening at the main branch of the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library is free and open to the public.
“February is Black History Month, so we thought it would be perfect timing to show it at the library,” Monaco said. “Also, it’s a documentary that explores local history, and gives our community a chance to come together and learn more about the area in which they live.”
“Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay”
Augusta-Richmond County Public Library
Wednesday, February 26