DuPont to loan slave artifacts to university

  • Thursday, October 10, 2013

Dan Brown/Gazette Susan Cooksey of the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of African Art explains the connection between the DuPont Cooper River pottery artifacts and African Kongo “colonware” to DuPont’s Jerry Good, and Cypress Gardens Director Dwight Williams.

The most significant find of American slave artifacts in U.S. history is about to see the light of day.

DuPont, in conjunction with Cypress Gardens, has agreed to loan slave artifacts to the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of African Art.

In 2008, more than 15,000 slave village artifacts were found during construction of DuPont’s new Cooper River Kevlar plant adjacent to Cypress Gardens. The artifacts, believed to have come from an old slave village on the grounds of Dean Hall Plantation, presented new light on life of African slaves more than 200 years ago.

Susan Cooksey, co-curator of the Harn Museum of African Art on the UF campus, approached Cypress Gardens about studying pottery artifacts unearthed during DuPont’s Kevlar Plant excavation project to see if they were similar to African Kongo pottery.

“Until now these artifacts were seen just as archeological artifacts,” Cooksey said. “We see them as art and want these artifacts to be seen in the light of day.”

In November of 2012 Cooksey met with Cypress Gardens Director Dwight Williams, Ralph Baily of Brockington and Associates, and DuPont’s Cooper River Plant manager Jerry Good to study some of the 15,000 artifacts.

“After Dr. Cooksey completed her initial research, she informed us that some of our artifacts helped her prove the connection between African Kongo artifacts – (called “colonware”) – and the colonware found at the Dean Hall plantation slave village excavation site,” Good said.

Cooksey plans to include pieces of these artifacts in a major exhibition on the connections between African American and Kongo art and culture at the UF Harn African Art Museum to run from December 2013 through June 2014.

The exhibit will become a traveling exhibition, which would also be displayed at the Carter Presidential Museum of Art in Atlanta, the New Orleans Art Museum, and the Princeton, NJ Museum of Art through 2015.

DuPont, which owns the artifacts, agreed to a three-year loan. On Sept. 27, Cooksey picked up the last of these artifacts that will be included in the exhibition.

“People need to see these artifacts and DuPont is looking for the best way to display this amazing collection of American slave history,” Good said.

DuPont funded the archeological dig in 2008 when slave village artifacts were found during their $460 million Kevlar plant project construction. In 2010 DuPont donated funds to Cypress Gardens to build the Heritage Room, where over 200 of the African American artifacts are on display.

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