After the Civil War, many black Americans continued to work as craftsmen. Artisans were important leaders in Northern and Southern black communities. They employed fellow African Americans and welcomed them as customers, unlike many white business people.
H. Wilson & Co. supported the African American community in Guadalupe County, Texas, following the abolition of slavery. The freed slaves of John M. Wilson Jr. (see John M. Wilson Pottery in this collection) founded the company in 1869. Led by the master potters Hyrum, James, and Wallace Wilson, the company produced beautiful and unique pieces of pottery.
However, H. Wilson’s potters did not just copy what they had made for Guadalupe Pottery Company. The black artisans created new forms, textures, and styles of pottery. For example, the H. Wilson & Co. used a salt glaze rather than the ash glaze used by Guadalupe Pottery Company. The company’s success shows that some African Americans prospered in the difficult years after the Civil War. The black craftsmen of H. Wilson & Co. were leaders of and advocates for African Americans in their small but vibrant Texas community.