THE FACE JUG
THE TRUE STORY OF A LOST FAMILY HEIRLOOM AND THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF THE LAST ENSLAVED AFRICANS
WHO MADE IT.
April L. Hynes & Dr. Jason Young
With The University Of Georgia Press
In “The Face Jug..” the remarkable story is told of a Philadelphia woman who, in the course trying to learn the origins of a piece of inherited pottery, unearthed a long-forgotten bit of American history judged as important as that of the La’ Amistad —the 1858 illegal importation of more than 400 enslaved aboard the slave ship Wanderer. In her dogged efforts to find out who might have made a face jug and how it ended up in Philadelphia, April found herself enthralled by the story of the Wanderer survivors.
The author shares her findings, entwining the remarkable events of the search with the information she discovered about many of these illegally smuggled captives. In doing so, it sheds light on the slave experience, recaptures bits of history once familiar to the American public, and reveals for the first time new information about the lives and legacy of these unfortunate victims. Each of them was a victim of one man’s avarice and his desperate attempt to preserve the despicable institution of slavery. However, what they experienced as freed men and women, how they endured, and how their descendants prospered and contributed, ultimately makes this a story of triumph.
The experiences of the author during her research was as unique as the story itself. As she delved into the dark details of Southern slavery, she also encountered the practices that the Africans brought with them from the Kongo. Strange coincidences, implausible strokes of luck, and other strange events appear to lead her to answers asked by historians for 150 years. She felt driven to keep digging for the long-lost story of the Wanderer survivors. These experiences told by April Hynes, form the thread that ties the narrative together.
Also, telling this story demonstrates how the lives of the Wanderer Africans were representative of the larger slave experience. They also highlight the uniqueness of their personal journeys from captivity to freedom and beyond.
As April learned, in 1858, the furor over the slaves’ illegal capture, more than 50 years after the slave trade had been abolished, brought them to the public’s attention throughout the country. Their capture, sale, and enslavement contributed to the dissolution of the union and the start of the Civil War. Then, this group of Africans was mostly forgotten by a nation embroiled in a bloody conflict and its aftermath. That might have been the end of it, except in the later years of the 19th century, strange jugs began to appear in pottery collections and museums. Their staring eyes and grinning mouths of white kaolin clay intrigued historians—the jugs’ connection to this Kongolese group was still undiscovered.
And it may have remained that way if not for the fact that April Hynes’ grandfather discovered an African Face Jug on a construction site in Philadelphia in 1950. It took some literal and figurative digging but eventually April, a devoted amateur genealogist, traced the jug’s origins back to tiny Edgefield County, South Carolina. The area is home to amazingly high-quality clay and pottery operations where many slaves, including Wanderer survivors, toiled making stoneware. The link discovered between April Hynes’ Face Jug and the Wanderer Africans helped to break down the so-called brick wall that frequently thwarts those trying to unmask the personal side of the slavery story.
In time, April eventually learned that a small cadre of families had learned of their connection to the Wanderer and kept that memory and solidarity alive today. The stories of these descendants also figure in this amazing story. From recounting how the Wanderer survivor Ward Lee witnessed the first freed slaves voting, to his great grandson carrying Ward’s photo into the voting booth in 2008 to help elect the nation’s first African American president, from Charles August Lamar’s secessionist efforts and law-breaking, bringing Peter Poinsette to the U.S., to his great granddaughter Septima Poinsette Clark, known today as the “Grandmother of the Civil Rights Movement,” marching alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., We demonstrate the remarkable impact this group has had.
In researching THE FACE JUG, April and others have helped have interviewed descendants, uncovered previously lost archived contemporary newspaper accounts, combed through Depression-era Works Progress Administration records, all in the service of painting a portrait of these remarkable people. Along the way, they have given some people back their forgotten African history, reunited long-lost family members and have stepped back to see how this simple jug has touched the lives of so many. Readers will encounter these individuals and get a rare glimpse into the real experiences of those that endured the institution of slavery from their experiences in being seized from the Kongo to their descendants today. They will attend a reunion of the Wanderer descendants, and discover how freed slaves turned master potters preserved their religious beliefs in clay, and mastered the techniques that allowed them to transform the raw materials of their vision and their captivity into hardened vessels capable of carrying their dreams and their past in enduring form into the present.
With a team of collaborators, April continues to unearth new discoveries about the Wanderer captives. In writing THE FACE JUG, the Author has assembled stories of this last group of slaves illegally brought into this country, a picture of a time, a place, and a people who will not be forgotten.
All because their voices cried out from behind a face of clay.
PUBLISHER: University of Georgia Press
Lindsay Edgecombe, Agent
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