Bill Lynch, Mason Adams, Kelley Libby, Zack Harold, Caroline MacGregor, Eric Douglas Published

The African Art Of Face Jugs, Inside Appalachia

Three handmade face jugs.
Face jugs created by Shinnston, West Virginia potter Ed Klimek.
Zack Harold/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

This week, a North Carolina potter is reviving an art form brought to America by enslaved Africans.

We return to the town of Hindman, Kentucky, which endured catastrophic flooding last July, and get an update on the town’s recovery.

We also talk with West Virginia poet Doug Van Gundy about disasters, and their relationship to art.

You’ll hear these stories and more this week, Inside Appalachia.

In This Episode:

The Twisted Path That Brought African Face Jugs To Appalachia

You’ve probably seen pottery with a face on it – maybe a decorative teapot or an odd-looking milk bottle with a toothy grin. 

Examples of this type of art turn up everywhere, but some of them are connected to African Face Jugs, an art enslaved people brought with them to America.

Folkways Reporter Zack Harold traced the story of Face Jugs, which began in a basement pottery studio in West Virginia.

Flying On The Wings Of The Cicada

Many of us who live in the eastern half of the U.S. can instantly identify the distinctive droning of the cicada. We don’t get them every year. Cicadas have a very long life cycle with different broods emerge from underground every 13 to 17 years. 

In the spring of 2016, a massive brood of cicadas emerged in northern West Virginia. Their appearance inspired a West Virginia University professor to take a closer look at their wings.

This led to a discovery that may be helpful to humans.

WVPB’s Assistant News Director Caroline MacGregor has the story.


A face jug.
African Face Jugs came to America through slavery. Artist Jim McDowell uses the art form to speak about the African American experience. Courtesy

Hindman, Kentucky Making Progress On Recovery

Last July, thousands of residents in southeastern Kentucky endured historic flash flooding that took lives and devastated communities. One of the hardest hit towns was Hindman in Knott County. 

Stu Johnson from WEKU has this update about the town’s recovery. 

Writing And Talking About Disaster With Poet Doug Van Gundy

One of the places struck by those Kentucky floods was the Hindman Settlement School, home to the Appalachian Writers Workshop. Poet Doug Van Gundy was at the workshop during the flood.

Bill Lynch spoke with Van Gundy about poetry, disasters and tattoos.


Our theme music is by Matt Jackfert. Other music this week was provided by Frank George, Amythyst Kiah, Gerry Milnes, Chris Knight and Born Old. 

Bill Lynch is our producer. Zander Aloi is our associate producer. Our executive producer is Eric Douglas. Kelley Libby is our editor. Our audio mixer is Patrick Stephens.

You can send us an email:

You can find us on Instagram and Twitter @InAppalachia. Or here on Facebook.

Sign-up for the Inside Appalachia Newsletter!

Inside Appalachia is a production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting.