Carolina Clay: The Legend of the Slave Potter Dave, by Leonard Todd; W. W. Norton, 316 pages, about $25.95.
Author Leonard Todd first learned of the slave potter known as Dave in 2000 while reading an account of an exhibition of the man's work. Known for having created some magnificent jugs and storage jars while living as a slave in South Carolina, Dave was attracting considerable attention by virtue of his having signed his name and scrawled lines of original verse on many of the pieces he had fashioned by hand, quite an accomplishment since it was illegal for blacks to read or write in much of the South before the Civil War. A native of Edgefield, SC, where Dave had lived and worked, Todd soon learned that the man at one time had been the property of his ancestors, prompting him to embark on an exhaustive investigation into the man's life and times, which he details here, in this fascinating book. Todd also includes a thorough discussion of Dave's clever couplets.