What Are Some Quilt Patterns Underground Railroad Crossroads? (Solved)

What is the meaning of the Underground Railroad quilt?

  • Quilts of the Underground Railroad describes a controversial belief that quilts were used to communicate information to African slaves about how to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad. It has been disputed by a number of historians.

How quilts were used in the Underground Railroad?

The seamstress would hang the quilts in full view one at a time, allowing the slaves to reinforce their memory of the pattern and its associated meaning. When slaves made their escape, they used their memory of the quilts as a mnemonic device to guide them safely along their journey, according to McDaniel.

What does the crossroads quilt pattern mean?

Some records indicate this symbol meant a wagon with hidden compartments in which slaves could conceal themselves, would soon be embarking for the trip to freedom. Wagon Wheel Variation: Crossroads: A symbol referring to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the main crossroads.

What is the Underground Railroad quilt code?

A quilting pattern often overlooked in today’s society is the Underground Railroad quilt code. Used during the time of abolition and the Civil War, this visual code sewn into the pattern of quilts readied slaves for their upcoming escape and provided them directions when they were on their way to freedom.

What is the oldest quilt pattern?

The Crazy Quilt is probably the oldest of quilt patterns. Early quilters used any scrap or remnant available, regardless of its color, design, or fabric type.

Why do people put quilt patterns on their barns?

Barn quilts began as a way to honor a loved one with a gorgeous piece of folk art. In Adams County, Ohio, in 2001, Donna Sue Groves set out to honor her mother, Maxine, and her quilt art by painting a quilt block on her tobacco barn. The idea was a hit, and soon friends and neighbors wanted painted quilts of their own.

What is the Freedom quilt?

It is believed that quilts were designed and used to communicate information to African slaves about how to escape to freedom using the Underground Railroad. Slaves named these quilts… Freedom Quilts.

How many quilt patterns were in the code?

Researchers today are excited about unraveling the mysteries behind the Underground Railroad Quilt codes. And your students will be excited to use this kit to help design their own coded quilt squares. Twelve quilt patterns were used to direct the slaves to take particular action.

What does the Bear Paw quilt symbolize?

The Bear’s Paw quilt was hung to encourage Underground Railroad passengers to follow bear excrement on the path. That way they would be able to find water and food.

How many quilt codes are there?

“They could feel or sense light through their struggle of trying to get to freedom.” Prior to 1999, the codes were unheard of even to the African American quilting community. That’s according to Marsha MacDowell, a quilt scholar and director of the Quilt Index, a massive online catalog of more than 90,000 quilts.

What’s Harriet Tubman’s real name?

The person we know as “Harriet Tubman” endured decades in bondage before becoming Harriet Tubman. Tubman was born under the name Araminta Ross sometime around 1820 (the exact date is unknown); her mother nicknamed her Minty.

What is a log cabin quilt?

Log Cabin Quilts are made of arrangements of a repeated single block pattern. The Log Cabin block consists of light and dark fabric strips that represent the walls of a. log cabin. A center patch, often of red cloth, represents the hearth or fire.

What does the bow tie quilt mean?

Also known as the necktie or hourglass quilt, the bow tie quilt originated in the time of the pioneers setting in the Western part of America. A specific theory about the bow tie quilt blocks is that it was a symbol for slaves to dress up like rich people in order to travel safely.

What are the popular quilting patterns?

Patchwork and Nine Patch Patterns

  • Nine Patch Quilt Block Pattern. This is the perfect beginner quilt block.
  • Rainbow Cuddle Fabric Quilt.
  • Nostalgic Fat Quarter Quilt.
  • Sixteen Patch Baby Quilt.
  • Incredible Disappearing Nine Patch Quilt.
  • Crazy Nine Patch.

What are the 3 types of quilts?

Our four basic types of quilts are: Pieced, Appliquéd, Paper Pieced, and English Paper Pieced.

What is the most popular quilt block?

The log cabin quilt block pattern is one of the most well-known and popular quilt block patterns. Resembling a log cabin, these blocks are created with layer rectangles. The log cabin quilt block is extra famous and extra traditional.

Underground Railroad Quilt Codes: What We Know, What We Believe, and What Inspires Us

An embroidered quilt hanging from a clothesline or window sill, according to folklore, marked the location of a safe home along the Underground Railroad. These quilts were infused with a form of code, so that an enslaved person on the run could determine the immediate hazards in the region by reading the shapes and motifs woven into the pattern, as well as where to go next by reading the code. Dress in disguise in order to appear to be of better social position. Bear Paw = Follow an animal route into the mountains in search of water and food, which you will discover.

I can see the potential benefits of such a system.

I really want to think that took place.

Sharon Tindall is a quilter and instructor who lives in Virginia.

  1. Johnson House, which was built in 1768 in the center of Germantown, has woodwork, flooring, and glass that are all original to the building.
  2. “I took a tour around the area to see where people slept and ate.
  3. The presence of the slaves, as well as the Johnson family who protected them, was represented by the hues in the quilt’s sky.
  4. In Sharon Tindall’s “The Johnson House,” a cotton batik, Dupioni silk, tulle netting, and Swarovski crystals are used to create a 40 by 28-inch piece of art.
  5. Tindall is a believer in and supporter of codes, despite the fact that not all of her quilts are coded.
  6. Our dialogue dragged on for weeks as I pressed for more specific details about how they were being used.
  7. Quilts were frequently produced to mark key family events like as marriage, a child’s birth, or the relocation of the family to a new location.

Toni Tindall’s narrative compositions are made up of a variety of fabrics, including cottons, raw Dupioni silk, Swarovski crystals, natural fibers, Mali mud cloth,and even glitter, to portray the spiritual and intangible elements of the story.

When she points to the blazing horizon line on herquilt, The Johnson House, she adds that the orange represents life or light.

In the years leading up to 1999, the codes were virtually unknown, even among members of the African American quilting community.

Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad, written by Jaqueline Tobin and Raymond G.

In collaboration with National Geographic and the Kennedy Center, curriculum for primary schools were designed that included references to the codes.

When we read an inspirational article online that is posted in Times New Roman, we prefer to take it as fact without questioning it.

“Almost every February, pieces of African-American history emerge in newspapers across the country,” MacDowell adds, referring to Black History Month.

Perhaps the rules for experiencing belief vs experiencing reality are just different.

There are no dates, instances, or first-person testimonies.

Evidence is required before something may be considered a fact.

According to studies of quilts manufactured during these years, the proof for some of these designs simply does not exist, so shattering the grip of this enthralling story’s engaging narrative.

Sharon Tindall provided the photograph.

It is now safe to remove your chains and shackles because you have a double wedding ring.

I inquired of Tindall about the significance of the Flying Geese quilt pattern and how it aided runaways on the Underground Railroad.

“Follow the geese as they fly north.” Look for or listen for geese moving north in the spring if the skies aren’t clear.

It read more like a poem or a nursery rhyme to me.

They were meant to physically follow the geese, right?

Although you may or may not agree with Tindall’s interpretation, you could agree that her view gives artistic grounds for believing as opposed to actuality.

“If people’s lives are on the line, it only seems sense that there would be no race of the quilts,” explains quilt researcher Mary Twining-Baird, who resides in Atlanta.

” If anyone learned the truth, they may literally lose their lives.” She specializes in kente clothquilts manufactured on the Sea Island chain, which stretches from South Carolina to Georgia to Florida, but she takes a strong position against quilt codes.

“Of course it was an amap!” says the author.

After all this time, they have either vanished or been shattered to bits.

The artist has provided permission for the use of his photograph.

She is attempting to explain or offer supporting evidence for her believe in quiltcodes, which is analogous to someone attempting to explain or provide supporting evidence for their belief in God.

The following is what she sent to me: “I consider myself a believer in Jesus Christ as well as a lady of Faith, storyteller, and acreator of quilts.” “I’ve taken the things that God has given me and I’m giving them back to Him via the quilt codes,” says the author of the book.

If we sincerely believe something, as Tindall thinks that enslaved people going north were directed by the Flying Geese design in quilts, it is possible that we may have difficulty distinguishing between belief and truth.

So it is with the Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea, who believe that the spirits of their ancestors take up residence in particular animals, such as pigs and birds, when they die.

Stories, recipes, personal experiences, and everything else that was whispered to us when we were children frequently trump scientific reality.

A classic block design, the North Star, is combined with a Jacob’s Ladder block pattern to create this quilt by Sharon Tindall.

Sharon Tindall provided the photograph.

Is it possible that these quilts are causing harm to anyone?

“I’ve discovered that some people have a difficult time believing or thinking about things they cannot see or touch,” Tindall says.

Detroit’s African American population expanded by more than 600 percent between 1910 and 1920, according to the United States Census Bureau.

They brought quilts and tales of the enslaved South with them wherever they traveled.

The interviews conducted by MacDowell’s team numbered around fifty.

“Follow the Drinking Gourd (Green),” by Sharon Tindall, 2019, green batik on printed cotton, 26.5 x 26.5″ Sharon Tindall provided the photograph.

Her grandmother also taught her this.

The problem with theHiddenin Plain Viewbook is that it leads the reader to believe that every African American quilter held their needle pointing north.

Was her being white a contributing factor to her not hearing the story?

She is very aware of how widespread the myth of patchwork codes has gone.

While conducting research on quilts in South Africa, she met a group of modern quilters who, “lo and behold!” had heard about the book and had begun coding quilts of their own.

“It’s a fact of life.” Perhaps the code, whether true or not, serves as a vehicle for African Americans to explore the trauma they inherited—as well as the possibility of redemption.

They were braiding in the same code she was using, which she was surprised to find out.

See also:  Movie About A Haunting How That Was Used As A Underground Railroad For Slaves? (Best solution)

Some African American women are already making coded quilts for their daughters and grandchildren, and this will continue to be the case in the future.

The genealogy of patchwork code-using artists is now well-established.

In her spare time, MarieClaire Bryant works as a poet, storyteller, and archivist at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in New York City.

She formerly worked as the director of publication for the Cfile Foundation, where she wrote, edited, and published significantly on the subject of modern and historic ceramic arts, among other things.

Block of the Month: Crossroads {A Tutorial and Free Pattern Download}

An embroidered quilt hanging on a clothesline or window sill, according to folklore, was a common indication of a safe place along the Underground Railroad. Each of these quilts was encoded with a code, so that an enslaved person on the run could decipher the forms and patterns stitched into the design and determine the immediate hazards in the region, as well as where to go next. The use of a bow tie might make you look to be of better social standing. Bear Paw = Travel through the mountains on an animal trail in search of water and food.

  • Log Cabin = I can see the potential of such a system in the near future.
  • I’d like to believe it actually took place.
  • Sharon Tindall is a quilter and educator who lives in Virginia.
  • In her words, “When I’m making a quilt, I’m completely focused on its purpose.” The fact that I am able to create something comforting makes me thankful.
  • Johnson House, which was built in 1768 in the heart of Germantown, is notable for its original woodwork, flooring, and glass.
  • There is an eerie sense of their presence around you.
  • Hope, freedom, and love for the slaves are among the messages I want to convey.

Sharon Tindall’s “The Johnson House,” a 40 x 28-inch cotton batik on Dupioni silk netting with Swarovski crystals, is a work in progress.

Tindall is a believer in and defender of codes, even if not all of her quilts are coded.

Our conversation dragged on for weeks as I pressed for more specific information about how they were being employed.

The creation of quilts was frequently done to commemorate important family events such as a wedding, childbirth, or the relocation of the family.

When it comes to conveying the spiritual, intangible components of her narrative compositions, Tindall employs a variety of materials such as cottons, raw Dupioni silks, Swarovski crystals, natural fibers, Mali mud cloth, and even glitter.

When she points to the glowing horizon line on her quilt The Johnson House, she says, “the orange represents life or light.” In the midst of their struggle to achieve freedom, “they could feel or sense light.” In the years preceding 1999, the codes were virtually unknown, even among members of the African American quilting community.

Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad, written by Jaqueline Tobin and Raymond G.

Primary and secondary school curricula that incorporate the codes were developed by National Geographic and The Kennedy Center.

It’s natural for us to believe a positive story on the internet that has been typeset in Times New Roman.

When it comes to African-American History Month, MacDowell says, “stories appear in newspapers across the country almost every February.” “If you’re wondering what’s causing our annoyance, I believe it’s more frustrating that the codes continue to be presented as truth.” That is to say, among other things, the authenticity of quilt codes is determined by the amount of emphasis placed on them.

It is not necessary to provide proof when a person believes in something.

Except for believing, they have nothing to do.

It is difficult to define what constitutes “fact.” Some historians have raised the possibility that many of the quilt patterns cited as directives for enslaved peoples were not yet in existence during the height of the Underground Railroad, between 1850 and 1860, when the Underground Railroad was at its most active.

  1. In this quilt, Sharon Tindall’s interpretation of the Flying Geese quilt pattern is depicted in dupioni silk and cotton, and measures 19 x 19″ in size.
  2. To avoid being stalked by hounds, take the Drunkard’s Path = Zig-zag your way along the path.
  3. Flying Geese is a historical pattern created from triangles and rectangles that Sharon Tindall uses in her work.
  4. When I asked her what color the birds were, she responded with “blue,” “red,” and “black.” The geese are heading north, so follow them.
  5. It came across as a poem or a nursery rhyme to my ears.
  6. They were supposed to literally follow the geese, was that correct?
  7. It doesn’t matter whether you believe Tindall’s interpretation or not; you might agree that her belief provides poetic justifications for belief as opposed to fact.

In the opinion of Atlanta-based quilt scholar Mary Twining-Baird, “If people’s lives are at stake, it stands to reason that there would be no race of the quilts.” It goes without saying that the documents are non-existent.

An old quilt that “looked like it had been sewn with a crowbar” was discovered by her.

Because the quilt was destroyed in a flood and no photographs were taken, this serves as evidence for the general scarcity of material evidence of quilt codes in modern times.

Alyssa Tindall’s e-mail address: [email protected] The artist has provided permission to use his photograph.

She is attempting to explain or offer supporting evidence for her believe in quiltcodes, which is analogous to someone attempting to explain or provide supporting evidence for their belief in god.

The following is what she sent to me: “I consider myself a believer in Jesus Christ as well as a lady of Faith, storyteller, and an acreator of quilts.” In the quilt coding, I’m saying, “I’ve taken the things that God has given me and I’m giving them back to Him.” Scholar For example, Marilyn Motz gives a definition for belief that appears to be appropriate: “a process of knowing that is not amenable to verification or measurement within the context of a modern western scientific paradigm.” As she points out, “the phrase belieffact throws into doubt the legitimacy of the concept itself.” After all, “we frequently refer to our own views as knowledge,” according to the author.

  1. If we sincerely believe something, like Tindall thinks that enslaved people going north were directed by the Flying Geese design in quilts, we may have difficulty distinguishing between what is believed and what is proven.
  2. It is possible that objective facts will have little impact on folkloric beliefs in many circumstances.
  3. Does the hard proof the Kalulicans present for their deeply ingrained belief systems warrant our concern?
  4. You should care about them because they matter because we believe in them.
  5. A classic block design, the North Star, is combined with a Jacob’s Ladder in this quilt by Sharon Tindall.
  6. Irrespective of the contested history, Tindall and other quilters have been creating coded quilts for the past twenty years: shimmering, spiritually charged, stop you in your tracks, hangingtextiles based on profoundly believed and controversial historical events.
  7. In MacDowell’s opinion, “the danger is that it is not a true story.” There is a danger in challenging people’s views and the sources of their knowledge, says the author.

People who had been enslaved were finally free to travel without fear of being captured.

In what is known as the Great Northern Migration, or the Black Migration, a group of African-Americans traveled from the rural South to the Midwest, expressing their displeasure with segregation laws and looking for industrial employment.

Hidden in Plain View was being written by Tobin and Dobard at this time period.

Around fifty interviews were conducted by MacDowell’s team.

“Follow the Drinking Gourd (Green),” by Sharon Tindall, 2019, green batik on printed cotton, 26.5 x 26.5 inches.

According to one lady, who was originally from SouthCarolina but now lives in Detroit, she began to quilt as a youngster in her home state of SouthCarolina.” Because opportunities are found in the northern hemisphere, according to her mother (as did her grandmother educate her mother), she always quilts with a needle facing north while she works because that is where the best opportunities are found.

  1. Others who spoke with us indicated that her family had hidden vital documents in the quilt’s binding.
  2. The question of MacDowell’s whiteness was raised by her quilt-scholar colleagues.
  3. No one in Michigan knew about this story, despite the fact that we had a full battery of individuals completing those interviews in Michigan, both black and white.” MacDowell has carried out the necessary study and analysis.
  4. The fact that she has no control over the situation is particularly frustrating for her.
  5. It’s true, she admits, that there will always be individuals who believe.
  6. A voyage to Liberia, a West African country initially formed as a colony by the American Colonization Society in order to repatriate emancipated and free-born black people from the United States, provided Tindall with the opportunity to express her ideas to her audience.
  7. There was an unspoken sense of affinity between her and the man.
  8. Whether or whether the codes are “genuine,” Tobin and Dobard are responsible for a twenty-year history of craftsmanship that has sprung up as a result of their faith in what they wrote, i.e., their belief in the code.
  9. In their eyes, the codes constitute poetry and healing as well as a method of expressing their historical heritage.

Before that, she worked as the director of publishing at the Cfile Foundation, where she wrote about, edited, and published significantly on the subject of current and historic ceramic art.

Did Quilts Hold Codes to the Underground Railroad?

According to two scholars, African American slaves may have utilized a patchwork code to navigate the Underground Railroad during their time as slaves. According to the duo, quilts with designs such as “wagon wheel,” “tumbling blocks,” and “bear’s paw” appear to have included secret signals that guided slaves to freedom. The quilt code idea was initially proposed by Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard in their book Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad, which was released in 1998 and has been around for six years.

McDaniel maintains that the secret of the quilt code was passed down from one generation to the next by her foremothers and forefathers.

The Code

McDaniel detailed the code in a series of conversations with Tobin and Dobard, which included the following: Plantation seamstresses would create a sampler quilt, which would have several distinct quilt designs. Slaves would learn the code with the help of the sampler. The seamstress then stitched ten quilts, each of which was made up of a different design from the code. The quilts would be hung in plain view by the seamstress one at a time, allowing the slaves to reinforce their recall of the design and the meaning connected with the pattern.

  • According to historians, the first quilt made by the seamstress to be displayed had a wrench pattern on it.
  • In this pattern, slaves were instructed to pack their possessions because they would be embarking on a lengthy journey.
  • “You were intended to follow in the bear’s actual footsteps,” Dobard explained.
  • When Dobard finished the last quilt, she used a tumbling blocks design that she described as appearing like a collection of boxes.

“It was only exhibited when specific requirements were met, and that was the case with this quilt. If, for example, there was an agent of the Underground Railroad in the vicinity, “Dobard expressed himself. “It was a clear indicator that it was time to pack up and leave.”

Fact or Myth?

Since its publication, the quilt-code idea has been the subject of heated debate. Quilt historians and experts on the Underground Railroad have questioned the methods used in the study, as well as the veracity of its conclusions. Giles R. Wright, a historian located in New Jersey, argues that there is a scarcity of supporting material. Quilt codes are not mentioned in either the slave narratives from the nineteenth century or the oral accounts of former slaves from the 1930s. In addition, there are no original quilts left.

  • “They provide no proof, no paperwork, in support of that claim,” says the author.
  • I was thinking to myself, “Who is going to take notes on their actions and what they meant.it may get into the wrong hands?” Dobard expressed himself.
  • “Take, for example, the nature of quilts.
  • “It is unreasonable to expect a quilt that has been kept within the slave community for more than a hundred years to still be in existence.” Fact or fiction, most people agree that the concept of a patchwork code is intriguing.
See also:  What Is The Significance Of Quilts In The Underground Railroad? (Suits you)

Underground Railroad Quilts Contained Codes That Led To Freedom

Each patch has a set of instructions sewn on it. Others were there to restock supplies, some were there to track bear prints, and some were there to take diversions. A presentation of the Underground Quilts by the Riley Center Quilters was held on Tuesday evening at the Birmingham Public Library Central Branch. Others quilts were enormous, some were little; some were completed, some were not; but all included instructions on how to emancipate oneself from the bonds of servitude. Daphne Simmons, a member of the Riley Center Quilters, explained that quilts were utilized as codes since they were the only method of communication available.

  • “There was a code, an unwritten code.
  • Simmons went into detail about the significance of each patch on her quilt.
  • It was written on the quilt, “This block contains an alternating route of dark and light that denotes direction,” and that specific quilt instructed slaves in which direction they should move: north, south, east, or west.
  • “It’s a tool in the same way that a genuine monkey wrench is,” Simmons explained.
  • This patch represented the period of time during which they would need to gather the tools they would use on their trip north to freedom.
  • The capacity to determine the intents of strangers, according to Simmons, comes from “knowledge and experience.” She spoke into detail about the block with the wagon wheel.
  • As a result of the restricted weight and space available, they had to carry things that were vital for survival.
  • It was pointed out by Simmons that the spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” made reference to a wagon wheel.

According to her, it is a “secondary coding pattern.” “The song was generally chanted in conjunction with that block because plantation owners believed that slaves were singing about joining Jesus in Heaven.” They were in fact transmitting a secret message.” She explained that they were supposed to follow the carpenter’s wheel to the northwest.

  1. In order to avoid being eaten by a bear, “you would follow their paws and their trail.
  2. According to her, “following those bear paws, they’ll also be guided to food and water.” “Animals will lead you in the right direction.” Basket A basket indicated that the runaways would resupply their provisions at a secure location.
  3. A major crossroads occurred in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, as Simmons explained.
  4. I’m traveling to see someone in another city and rely on Google Maps to get there.
  5. Running away to a shoofly for clothes is something that may happen.
  6. “There would be sailors on hand to assist you in across the river and entering Canada, where the North Star (the next block away) would shine brightly with your independence,” says the author.
  7. “There were some northern states that empathized with slaves, and there were some northern states who were opposed to it,” she explained.
  8. Lesson in Learning Many people, including Miriam Omura, who was in attendance, found this seminar to be a valuable learning experience.
  9. She gained a better understanding of the symbols that were utilized on the Underground Railroad.
  10. “It was nice to learn about even more of the ones I was unaware of,” says the author.
  11. “It makes me want to create one,” Gross expressed interest in doing so.

“I’m still new at quilting; I’ve only been doing it for about nine months. I’ve only made one so far, and I’m now working on my second. In this experience, I learnt something that I don’t believe I would have learned otherwise,” Gross added.

History of underground railroad quilts, african quilts

The quilts of the underground railroad have an interesting history, which you can read about here. Although there is no written record of the codes that may have been present, historians have discovered some trustworthy evidence in documented verbal testimonies that demonstrate the significance of the quilts in aiding slaves on their journey to liberty.

Harriet Tubman and The Under ground Railroad

The history of the underground railroad quilts is rather interesting. No written record exists on the codes that may have been in use at the time of the quilting, but historians have discovered some trustworthy evidence in documented verbal remarks that demonstrate the significance of the quilts in assisting slaves on their journey to freedom.

Forming landscape quilts to guide

The codes that were used in the Underground Railroad quilts were devised by slaves, freed blacks, and white individuals who were opposed to the system of slavery and who wanted to see slavery abolished. It was imperative that these codes be kept secret, and even the smallest children were aware that this knowledge was to be kept safe at all times. African people were the originators of many of the patterns that may be found in Underground Railway quilts. During the traumatic years of slavery, they were passed down from one generation to the next and served as a means of preserving their history and culture alive for future generations.

Patterns with specific knots, stitching colors, or shape can provide an abundance of information.

Given the fact that quilts were typical household objects, they could be hung from trees and fences, as well as from windows, porches, and clotheslines, where they would be plainly visible to anybody passing by.

Log cabin quilt patterns

The Star, the Monkey Wrench, and the Crossroads were among the designs that were supposed to have direct significance for persons traveling on the Underground Railway system. There are three further patterns that are said to have included crucial directions and signals for fleeing slaves. These are the Tumbling Blocks, Bear’s Paws, and Wagon Wheel motifs. An indication of where to locate food was provided by the Nine Patch pattern, while the Log Cabin design in a quilt provided information about shelters that were available to those who needed it.

Having a blue center on the Log Cabin design might indicate that the pattern is associated with a safe haven.

A quilt’s role in our history has been rather intriguing, since it has had a purpose other than simply being decorative and keeping us warm.

We know what we know, we believe what we believe, and we are inspired by what we have learned about the Underground Railroad quilt codes.

This means that if you click on a link and make a purchase, I may get a commission on the sale. The following copyright rights are reserved: 2006-2021.

Follow the Flying Geese

Slave traders in West and Central Africa in the 1700s and early 1800s were on the lookout for the most competent, bright, and healthy individuals that they could locate. Despite the fact that they were separated from their communities and forced to labor in Caribbean and American houses and fields, enslaved Africans maintained their links to African civilization, culture, and religion despite their circumstances. They had brought their abilities. And their will to live as free human beings never faded away from them.

As the economy of the southern United States became increasingly reliant on slavery in the late 1700s and early 1800s, slave-owners strengthened their control over the slave trade in the region.

Slaves would be severely punished if they congregated with one another unless they were being watched over by whites.

Simply speaking amongst themselves necessitated the development of a secret language or code by the slaves.

The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad was a network of free blacks and sympathetic whites who worked together to aid runaway slaves from their masters’ jurisdiction. A statement made by a man who was closely pursuing a slave escaping from Kentucky, according to some accounts (including those of Wilbur Siebert, an Underground Railroad historian who published a major study of the Underground Railroad in 1893), is said to be the origin of the term “Underground Railroad.” When the escapee abruptly vanished from a riverside, the pursuer surmised that the man had “boarded a subterranean train,” according to the report.

  • Between approximately 1830 and 1865, while the Abolitionist movement was gaining power in the United States, the organization was at its peak, particularly after 1850, when Southern political leaders gained the reinstatement of the Fugitive Slave Laws.
  • While slaves were unquestionably better knowledgeable about the surrounding region than their masters, they were less knowledgeable about where they were traveling.
  • During a voyage that may span four or five months, runaways moved only around ten miles per day, going through wilderness and difficult country.
  • Because every escape attempt had to be planned and carried out in complete secrecy, there was little contact inside the network itself.
  • In order to escape, not only did slaves throughout the South need to grasp the code, but so did the loosely linked free blacks who were vital in supporting the fugitives.
  • Many parts of the secret signaling system used to assist slaves in their escape to freedom have been exposed via research and the transmission of family legends.
  • The Underground Railroad Quilt Code is one of the secret communication techniques that has just lately come to light as a result of historical research.
  • Tobin and African American art historian and quilter Raymond G.
  • Tobin and Dobard were co-authors of the book.
  • A significant portion of the language has completely disappeared.

Secret Signals

As far as we can tell, the Quilt Code operated in the following ways: Afro-American slaves blended standard quilt designs and stitching processes with traditional African symbols and motifs to create bed quilts that could be used to communicate messages. It was only for those who had mastered the language, whether via church services, storytelling, or hidden meetings with elders, that the messages themselves had any sense. Slaveholding families and white supervisors had no reason to suspect anything strange about slave women who were producing quilts for white families or for themselves, and they had no reason to be suspicious.

They served as billboards, broadcasting encoded signals to slaves planning to leave as well as to those who were fleeing for their lives.

In most cases, the quilts exhibited a single design made up of multiple squares of the same pattern combined into one larger design.

In the spring, slaves who see the Monkey Wrench quilt hanging in plain sight will know it is time to make ready to go, and they will gather not only the hardware they will need, but also the mental and spiritual skills they will need to prepare themselves.

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According to Ozella Williams, the first message in the Quilt Code was “The monkey wrench turns the wagon wheel toward Canada on a bear’s paw path to the crossroads.” The second message was “The monkey wrench turns the wagon wheel toward Canada on a bear’s paw trail to the crossroads.” A slave who understood the code would recognize this phrase as well as the four symbols included within it, which are the Monkey Wrench, the Wagon Wheel (also known as the Bear’s Paw), and the Crossroads (or the Cross).

  • The patchwork square design may be found in each of the four symbols as well.
  • The Wagon Wheel is a typical quilt pattern that can be seen in a variety of variations, but always in the form of a wheel.
  • The mountain routes were far safer than the roadways that were more often frequented.
  • Additionally, animal trails may aid fugitives in their search for water and food along the journey.

They displayed visual messages that were “hidden in plain sight.” Runaways who traveled over the Underground Railroad’s many routes, both enslaved and free blacks in the South and North, were familiar with the Code and placed quilts along the routes to convey local circumstances to runaways who they knew would be traveling during specific seasons.

Fugitive fugitives were instructed to follow the North Star by the well-known five-pointed Star quilt pattern. Even the stitching on the reverse side of a quilt had a secret road map code, which could be used to indicate, for example, the distance between safe homes along the route.

The Underground Railroad Quilt Code Patterns

(This is an adaptation of an account by Ozella McDaniel Williams, which appears in “Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad” by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard.) Doubleday published the book in 1999. First Anchor Books published a softcover edition in 2000.)

Monkey Wrench

Prepare the tools you’ll need for the long journey, including the mental and spiritual tools. Or (as a Ship’s Wheel), the pilot is prepared to begin the transport.

Wagon Wheel

Load the wagon or prepare to board the wagon to begin the escape.

Bear’s Paw

Take a mountain trail, out of view. Follow the path made by bear tracks; they can lead you to water and food.


Refers to Cleveland, Ohio, a destination offering several routes to freedom. It also signifies reaching a point where a person’s life will change, so one must be willing to go on.

Log Cabin

A secret symbol that could be drawn on the ground indicating that a person is safe to talk to. It also advises seeking shelter.


Possibly identifies a friendly guide who is nearby and can help.


Dress in a disguise, or put on a change of clothes.

Flying Geese

Points to a direction to follow, such as where geese would fly during spring migration.

Drunkard’s Path

Create a zig-zag path, do not walk in a straight line, to avoid pursuers in this area.


Follow the North Star. Worked in conjunction with the popular song, “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” a reference to the Big Dipper constellation.

Breaking down quilt ‘slavery codes’

HomeGarden | The Sun In his Wheaton, Maryland, home, author Raymond Dobard displays a quilt made by Ozella McDaniel. Dobard’s book, “Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad,” examines how different quilt patterns were allegedly used to aid slaves in their escape plans from the plantation. Photograph by Kristen E. Conway of the SHNS In 1999, the novel “Hidden in Plain View” was released to critical acclaim. Jacqueline Tobin and Raymond Dobard told the story of a Charleston, South Carolina, woman’s family legend concerning slaves in South Carolina who wove codes into quilt patterns in order to aid others attempting to elude capture on the Underground Railroad.

  1. In recognition of Black History Month, the episode was recently repeated on television.
  2. Her thoughts on the subject: “It’s exciting to ponder about the possibilities.” The Civil War and the suffering of slavery are at the heart of what we’re talking about in the end.
  3. As an example, consider the following code: “By turning the wagon wheel in the direction of Canada, the bear’s paw track brings the team to the crossroads.
  4. Shoofly instructed them to dress in cotton and satin bow ties and travel to the cathedral church where they would be wedded and exchange double wedding rings.
  5. The wagon wheel design signaled that slaves should begin packing, as if they were about to embark on a journey in a wagon of their own.
  6. The crossroads motif, which was denoted by a “X” through the square, was intended to be a nod to Cleveland.
  7. Shoofly was a design that alluded to an African American tradition in which individuals would scatter in separate directions before reuniting at a central location.
  8. The double wedding ring pattern as we know it now did not exist in the antebellum south.
  9. It’s possible that the flying geese, a pattern of triangles pointing in different directions, was a reference to springtime, the time of year when geese flew back north, as the optimum time to flee.
  10. The squiggly “X” design served as a warning not to go in a straight path, where it would be more difficult to avoid being apprehended.
  11. The north star pattern served as a navigational aid, instructing people to proceed in the direction of Canada and freedom.

“Tumbling blocks” was the design of the final quilt to be draped; this signified that it was now time to say goodbye. The blocks represented the arranging of packed boxes in preparation for a voyage.

Quilting in History: The Underground Railroad

Posted by:HouPE| 05/08/2013 | No Comments

Quilting in History: The Underground Railroad

Quilting has a long and illustrious history in the United States. Mrs. Betty Rawls shared a piece of her family’s history with us at Perry Public Library, and we were happy to have her! Ms. Rawls described how quilts were used to transmit information to slaves attempting to flee the country through the Underground Railroad. Specially designed blocks would be used to create quilts that would provide as preparation and guidance for them on their journey. An extremely wide range of patterns and meanings might be discovered.

Monkey Wrench

As a result, the slaves were reminded that it was time to gather any equipment that they may require for their voyage. It is possible that these tools will be compasses to aid with navigation, tools to construct a shelter, or weapons to defend oneself.


Once through the mountains, slaves had to make their way to the main crossroads, which was located in Cleveland, Ohio. Any quilt that had been hanging before this pattern would have provided driving instructions to Ohio.

Flying Geese

This is the design that tells slaves to migrate northward in the spring and summer, much like the geese do. Geese migrate through rivers and streams, stopping to rest and eat. This is a way that would be advantageous to individuals who are pursuing their own personal independence.

Tumbling Blocks

Counting the number of boxes on this block was used to inform others how many days they had left to “box up” all of their stuff in order to prepare for the evacuation. This is only a small sample of what is available. There were blocks that indicated which establishments will have beautiful clothes for purchase. This would allow the individual to better fit in with their surroundings than they would have been able to do if they were dressed as slaves. In addition to this, other blocks were utilized to indicate safe places where people may take refuge.

You might be interested in readingHidden in Plain View: The Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroadby Jacqueline L.

Dobard if you want to learn more about this topic.

Rawls has generously shared with us.

Underground Railroad Mural Project

Mural of an Underground Railroad Barn Quilt in Fredonia, Kansas The final product of one of the Fredonia Arts Council’s Summer Arts Program seminars was on exhibit throughout the community in August of this year. A collection of Barn Quilts painted by young people Megan Chambers, Shelby Starbuck, Dillon Steele, Brenna Moya, Jordan Signer, Jackson Osborne, Makayla Hamilton, and Ella Green can be found on the northwest corner of the square, on the north side of the building owned by Joe Bambick.

Megan Chambers, Shelby Starbuck, Dillon Steele, Brenna Moya, Jordan Signer, Jackson Osborne, Makayla Hamilton, and Ella Green are among This collection of barn quilts is a representation of designs seen along the Underground Railroad.

It is widely believed that secret messages in the form of quilt patterns aided slaves escaping the bonds of captivity in the southern states before and during the American Civil War.The quilt patterns relayed messages to slaves preparing to escape.Each pattern represented a different meaning.Some of the most common were “Monkey Wrench”, “Star”, “Crossroads”, and “Wagon Wheel”.Quilts slung over a fence or windowsill, seemingly to air, passed on the necessary information to knowing slaves.As quilts hung out to air was a common sight on a plantation, neither the plantation owner nor the overseer would notice anything suspicious.It was all part of a day’s work for the slaves.Codes and their meanings represented on the Fredonia collection include:“Monkey Wrench” – a signal to gather all the tools required for the fleeing slave’s journey.“North Star” – North was the direction of traffic on the Underground Railroad.This signal was used to show the direction of the Big Dipper constellation.“Crossroads” – a symbol referring to Cleveland, Ohio, which was the main crossroads with several routes to freedom.“Wagon Wheel” – a signal to the slave to pack the items needed to travel by wagon.“Tumbling Blocks” – a symbol indicating it was time for slaves to pack up and go, that a conductor was in the area.“Drunkard’s Path” – a warning signal to take a zigzag route to elude pursuing slave hunters and their hounds.“Britches” – a symbol indicating the escaping slave needed to dress as a free person.“Bow Tie” – a symbol indicating it was necessary to travel in disguise or to change from the clothing of a slave to those of a person of higher status.“Flying Geese” – it was used as a guide to find water, food and places to rest.“Bear’s Paw” – follow a mountain trail, out of view, and then follow an actual bear’s trail which would lead to water and food.“Broken Dishes” – a symbol referring to a signal that involved broken crockery at some future landmark.“Sailboat” – a signal that either a body of water was nearby or that boats were available. ​

Between historians and academics, there is still debate about the quilt code idea and whether or not fleeing slaves truly utilized codes disguised inside quilt patterns to trace their escape routes through the Underground Railroad. Because oral histories do not leave a written record, there is no documented evidence that the codes in the quilt designs were ever used in the first place. Most of what has survived are the stories that have been passed down through the years from the slaves themselves, and because of the code of secrecy, many of these stories have never been shared publicly.

Kevin Starbuck and Greg Wells produced the frame and mounting for this art piece, which was completed in two days.

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