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Face Jugs  

of the Southern United States

Early face jugs were believed to be used as grave markers by slaves who worked on American plantations. These jugs were supposed to ward off evil spirits. A South Carolina potter, who can trace his ancestors to slavery, states that "the idea was that the face jug would be ugly enough to scare the devil away from your grave so your soul could go to heaven." Face jugs have been found along the routes of the Underground Railroad and on gravesites, both indicating how highly they were valued and how closely connected they were with the enslaved African American culture.

In the early part of the 19th century, face jugs were adopted by white potters in South Carolina, Georgia and North Carolina. With the rise of inexpensive, mass-produced ceramic tableware, these potters struggled to make a living selling their hand-made pottery. To avoid going out of business they began making face jugs, which appealed to the tourist trade. The purpose of the jugs also evolved: they became known as ugly jugs in the 1920's and were often used to store alcohol. The jugs became uglier in an attempt to identify the contents and frighten children.

Our 9th graders were challenged to create their own contemporary spin on a face jug!

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