Two historians say African American slaves may have used a quilt code to navigate the Underground Railroad. Quilts with patterns named “wagon wheel,” “tumbling blocks,” and “bear’s paw” appear to have contained secret messages that helped direct slaves to freedom, the pair claim.
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.
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.
Did Harriet Tubman make quilts?
Harriet was not good at sewing. As a child her mama and others had tried to teach her but she was all thumbs. For her marriage, though, she made herself a patchwork quilt.
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.
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 flying geese quilt pattern mean?
Flying Geese: A signal to follow the direction of the flying geese as they migrated north in the spring. Most slaves escaped during the spring; along the way, the flying geese could be used as a guide to find water, food and places to rest.
What does shoofly quilt mean?
Shoofly: A symbol that possibly identifies a person who can guide and help; a person who helped slaves escape along the Underground Railroad and who knew the codes. Some sources say it indicated a safe house along the Underground Railroad.
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.
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.
Where is the freedom quilt?
Freedom Quilt | National Museum of African American History and Culture.
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 quilt pattern called?
These quilt blocks are usually made by a technique called Patchwork – which is all about joining together small fabric pieces to form a design. Most of the blocks of a particular quilt will follow a similar pattern. Sometimes the blocks may be appliqued or embroidered.
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 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.
Why are quilts painted on 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.
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.
- Johnson House, which was built in 1768 in the center of Germantown, has woodwork, flooring, and glass that are all original to the building.
- “I took a tour around the area to see where people slept and ate.
- The presence of the slaves, as well as the Johnson family who protected them, was represented by the hues in the quilt’s sky.
- 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.
- Tindall is a believer in and supporter of codes, despite the fact that not all of her quilts are coded.
- Our dialogue dragged on for weeks as I pressed for more specific details about how they were being used.
- 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 souls of their ancestors take up residence in various animals, such as pigs and birds, after 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 individuals have a difficult time believing or thinking about things they cannot see or touch,” Tindall explains.
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 × 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 had their needle pointed 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 genuine or not, serves as a platform for African Americans to explore the pain 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.
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.
Quilts of the Underground Railroad – Wikipedia
Describes a contentious concept that quilts were used to relay information to African slaves about how they may escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad, as described in Quilts of the Underground Railroad. A lot of historians have expressed their disagreement with this claim.
Books that emphasize quilt use
In her book, Stitched from the Soul (1990), Gladys-Marie Fry asserted that quilts were used to communicate safe houses and other information about the Underground Railroad, which was a network of “conductors,” meeting places, and safe houses that ran through the United States and into Canada, facilitating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery and into freedom. Historiologists, on the other hand, are divided on whether quilts and songs were used to spread information about the Underground Railroad.
Ozella McDaniel Williams provided the inspiration for the book, telling Tobin that her family had handed down a narrative for centuries about how quilt designs such as wagon wheels, log homes, and wrenches were used to help slaves travel the Underground Railroad.
It began with a monkey wrench, which signified the need to gather all of the essential goods and equipment, and concluded with a star, which signified the need to travel north.
Tobin noted in a 2007 Time magazine article: “It’s distressing to be attacked while also being denied the opportunity to commemorate this remarkable oral history of one family’s experience.” I have no clue whether or not it is totally valid, but it seems sense given the quantity of research we conducted.” “I believe there has been a tremendous lot of misunderstanding concerning the code,” Dobard stated.
When Jackie and I wrote the book, we set out to suggest that it was a collection of directions.
“In Africa, there is a long-standing history of secret organizations controlling the coding of information.
In order to acquire the deeper meaning of symbols, you must first demonstrate your merit of knowing these higher meanings by not disclosing them to others,” she explained. The foreword of Hidden in Plain View was written by Wahlman.
Giles Wright, a specialist on the Underground Railroad, claims that the book is based on legend that has not been corroborated by any reliable sources. He also stated that there are no quilting codes mentioned in any memoirs, diaries, or Works Progress Administration interviews done in the 1930s with ex-slaves that have been discovered. Quilt historians Kris Driessen, Barbara Brackman, and Kimberly Wulfert do not subscribe to the premise that quilts were used to transmit messages about the Underground Railroad, as claimed by certain historians.
- Well-known historians did not feel that the idea was correct and could not see any relationship between Douglass and this viewpoint.
- Blight “At some time, the true stories of fugitive slave escape, as well as the far bigger story of those slaves who were never able to flee, must take precedence over fiction as a primary focus of educational endeavors.
- Despite this, there are museums, schools, and other organizations who think the narrative is factual.
- Using the quilts as an example, he compares the code to the phrase in ” Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” in which slaves intended fleeing but their owners believed they were going to die.
- Cecelia Pedescleaux is a quilt scholar and quilter who specializes on the Underground Railroad.
- Celeste-Marie Bernier and Hannah Durkin are two of the most talented people in the world (2016). Across the African Diaspora, artists have created artworks that depict slavery. pp. 76–77, published by Oxford University Press. Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard (ISBN 978-1-78138-267-7) are the authors (1999). Quilts and the Underground Railroad have a secret history that has been kept hidden in plain sight. Doubleday Publishing Company, New York, N.Y., ISBN 0-385-49137-9
- Abc Stacie Stukin is a woman who lives in the United States (2007-04-03). “Unraveling the Myth of Quilts and the Underground Railroad” is a book on quilts and the Underground Railroad. TIME. The original version of this article was published on April 29, 2007. Obtainable on January 23, 2013
- Abcdef Noam Cohen is a writer and musician from New York City (January 23, 2007). Douglass Tribute is a work in which Slave Folklore and Fact collide. The New York Times is a newspaper published in New York City. ISSN0362-4331. Donna Lagoy and Laura Seldman (Donna Lagoy and Laura Seldman, eds) (September 5, 2016). Chester, New York, was a stop on the Underground Railroad in the Adirondacks. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-62585-701-9
- Reynolds, Glenn (2007). “quilts.” Arcadia Publishing Incorporated. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-62585-701-9
- Reynolds, Glenn (2007). “quilts.” According to Junius P. Rodriguez (ed.). The Slave Resistance and Rebellion Encyclopedia is a resource for those interested in the history of slave resistance and rebellion. Pages 407–409 in Greenwood Publishing Group’s book. 978-0-313-33273-9
- ISBN 978-0-313-33273-9 Andrew Bartholomew is a writer and poet (February 1, 2007). “Prof. Douglass debunks the Douglass myth.” The Yale Daily News is a daily newspaper published by Yale University. Donna Lagoy and Laura Seldman (Donna Lagoy and Laura Seldman, 2017)
- Retrieved on March 19, 2017. (September 5, 2016). Chester, New York, was a stop on the Underground Railroad in the Adirondacks. Publisher: Arcadia Publishing Incorporated, p. 127, ISBN: 978-1-62585-701-9
- ISBN: 978-1-62585-701-9 Barbara Brackman is a writer and editor who lives in New York City (November 5, 2010). FactsFabrications-Unraveling the History of QuiltsSlavery: 8 Projects – 20 Blocks – First-Person AccountsFactsFabrications-Unraveling the History of QuiltsSlavery: 8 Projects – 20 Blocks – First-Person Accounts C T Publishing Inc., p. 7, ISBN 978-1-60705-386-6
- AbFergus M. Bordewich, p. 7, ISBN 978-1-60705-386-6
- (February 2, 2007). “History’s Tangled Threads” (History’s Tangled Threads). The New York Times is a newspaper published in New York City. ISSN0362-4331. 30 April 2012
- Retrieved 30 April 2012
- Diane Cole is a woman who works in the fashion industry (2012). “Were Quilts Used as Underground Railroad Maps? – US News and World Report” (Were Quilts Used as Underground Railroad Maps?) usnews.com. 30th of April, 2012
- Brackman, Barbara (1997)Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Notes, and Diary Entries, ISBN1-57120-033-9
- Burns, Eleanor
- Sue Bouchard (1997)Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Notes, and Diary Entries, ISBN1-57120-033-9 (2003). The Underground Railroad Sampler is a collection of short stories about the Underground Railroad. Isbn 978-1-891776-13-7
- Cord, Xenia (Quilt in a Day) (March 2006). “The Underground Railroad” is a term that refers to a network of tunnels and passageways that connect cities to the rest of the world. Patchwork is really popular right now.14 (3). Fellner, Leigh (2010) “Betsy Ross redux: The quilt code.”
- Frazier, Harriet C. (2012) “Betsy Ross redux: The quilt code” (1 July 2004). Runaway and freed Missouri slaves, as well as those who assisted them, were documented between 1763 and 1865. McFarland & Company, Inc., p. 168. ISBN 978-0-7864-1829-9. Rice, Kym S., et al., eds., retrieved on April 30, 2012. (2011). 978-0-313-34944-7 (World of a Slave: A-I). ABC-CLIO, p. 390. ISBN 978-0-313-34944-7 (World of a Slave: A-I). Turner, Patricia A., et al., eds., retrieved 30 April 2012. (2009). The book Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters by Shelley Zegart is available on Amazon (2008) Shelley Zegart debunks the myth of the African American Quilt Scholarship and the technique behind it. Pages 48–56 in Selvedge, (ISSN 1742-254X) Issue 21 (Jan/Feb 2008), published by the University of California Press.
History of underground railroad quilts, african quilts
Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard published Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Note-Taking, and Diary Entries in 1997. Brackman, Barbara (1997)Quilt from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Note-Taking, and Diary Entries in ISBN1-57120-033-9; Burns, Eleanor; Sue Bouchard (2003). Underground Railroad Sampler is a collection of stories about the Underground Railroad. Isbn 978-1-891776-13-7; Cord, Xenia “Quilt in a Day” (March 2006). Underground Railroad is a term that refers to a network of underground tunnels that connect cities to one another and to the rest of the world.
- Fellner, Leigh (2010) “Betsy Ross redux: The quilt code.”; Frazier, Harriet C.
- Those who assisted runaway and freed Missouri slaves between 1763 and 1865.
- ISBN: 978-0-7864-1829-9.
- Rice, Kym S., et al., eds., retrieved 30 April 2012; (2011).
- ISBN 978-0-313-34944-7 (World of a Slave: A-I).
- Turner, Patricia A.
The book Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters by Shelley Zegart is available on Amazon.com (2008) Unraveling the African American Quilt Scholarship Myth and Methodology by Shelley Zegart Pages 48–56 in Selvedge, (ISSN 1742-254X), Issue 21 (Jan/Feb 2008).
Harriet Tubman and The Under ground Railroad
Brackman, Barbara (1997)Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Notes, and Diary Entries, ISBN1-57120-033-9; Burns, Eleanor; and Sue Bouchard (1997)Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Notes, and Diary Entries, ISBN1-57120-033-9 (2003). The Underground Railroad Sampler is a collection of stories about the Underground Railroad. In a Day, a Quilt.ISBN 978-1-891776-13-7; Cord, Xenia (March 2006). “The Underground Railroad” is a term that refers to a network of tunnels and passageways that provide access to the United States’ interior.
- Fellner, Leigh (2010), “Betsy Ross redux: The quilt code.”; Frazier, Harriet C.
- Runaway and freed Missouri slaves, as well as those who assisted them, from 1763 until 1865.
- 168, ISBN 978-0-7864-1829-9.
- Turner, Patricia A., et al., eds., retrieved 30 April 2012; (2009).
- Pages 48–56 in Selvedge, (ISSN 1742-254X) Issue 21 (Jan/Feb 2008), pp.
Forming landscape quilts to guide
Brackman, Barbara (1997)Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Notes, and Diary Entries, ISBN1-57120-033-9; Burns, Eleanor; Sue Bouchard (2003). The Underground Railroad Sampler is a collection of items from the Underground Railroad. Quilt in a Day, ISBN 978-1-891776-13-7; Cord, Xenia (March 2006). “The Underground Railroad” is a term that refers to a network of tunnels and passageways that provide access to the United States. Patchwork is a popular technique.14 (3). Fellner, Leigh (2010) “Betsy Ross redux: The quilt code.”; Frazier, Harriet C.
- Runaway and freed Missouri slaves, as well as those who assisted them, 1763–1865.
- 168, ISBN 978-0-7864-1829-9.
- (as of April 30, 2012); Rice, Kym S.
- World of a Slave: A-I.
- ISBN 978-0-313-34944-7.
- 48–56 in Selvedge, (ISSN 1742-254X) Issue 21 (Jan/Feb 2008), pp.
Log cabin quilt patterns
Brackman, Barbara (1997)Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Notes, and Diary Entries, ISBN1-57120-033-9; Burns, Eleanor; Sue Bouchard (1997)Quilts from the Civil War: Nine Projects, Historic Notes, and Diary Entries, ISBN1-57120-033-9 (2003). The Underground Railroad Sampler is a collection of short stories about the Underground Railroad. Isbn 978-1-891776-13-7; Cord, Xenia (Quilt in a Day) (March 2006). “The Underground Railroad” is a term that refers to a network of tunnels and passageways that connect cities to the rest of the world.
- Fellner, Leigh (2010) “Betsy Ross redux: The quilt code.”; Frazier, Harriet C.
- Runaway and freed Missouri slaves, as well as those who assisted them, were documented between 1763 and 1865.
- Rice, Kym S., et al., eds., retrieved on April 30, 2012.
- 978-0-313-34944-7 (World of a Slave: A-I).
- Turner, Patricia A., et al., eds., retrieved 30 April 2012.
- The book Crafted Lives: Stories and Studies of African American Quilters by Shelley Zegart is available on Amazon (2008) Shelley Zegart debunks the myth of the African American Quilt Scholarship and the technique behind it.
Pages 48–56 in Selvedge, (ISSN 1742-254X) Issue 21 (Jan/Feb 2008), published by the University of California Press.
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.
- In order to avoid being eaten by a bear, “you would follow their paws and their trail.
- 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.
- A major crossroads occurred in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, as Simmons explained.
- I’m traveling to see someone in another city and rely on Google Maps to get there.
- Running away to a shoofly for clothes is something that may happen.
- “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.
- “There were some northern states that empathized with slaves, and there were some northern states who were opposed to it,” she explained.
- Lesson in Learning Many people, including Miriam Omura, who was in attendance, found this seminar to be a valuable learning experience.
- She gained a better understanding of the symbols that were utilized on the Underground Railroad.
- “It was nice to learn about even more of the ones I was unaware of,” says the author.
- “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.
Were Quilts Used as Underground Railroad Maps?
Fact, fiction, legend, or a mix of all three: that is the question. Possibly, fugitive slaves looked to handcrafted quilts deliberately placed by members of the Underground Railroad for hints about their whereabouts. This continuing issue made headlines earlier this year when it was announced that a memorial to Frederick Douglass in New York City’s Central Park will feature two inscriptions relating to the code. Historians were outraged, and they were outspoken. According to Giles Wright, head of the Afro-American History Program at the New Jersey Historical Commission, there is no evidence for such a code to be in existence.
- The tale of the quilt key, on the other hand, remains firmly above ground.
- Tobin and Raymond G.
- The account, according to historians, came from a single source: Ozella McDaniel Williams, a retired educator and quilt maker from Charleston, South Carolina.
- She said that instructions for assisting fleeing slaves on their path to freedom were hidden inside 12 quilt patterns.
- In spite of the fact that Williams passed away just a few months before the book was released, Williams’s 73-year-old niece Serena Wilson of Columbus, Ohio, claims that she too learnt about the secret maps from her mother.
- Bordewich, author of Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the Battle for the Soul of America, there is no other reference for the code other than that of the Bordewich family.
- “There is no reference anywhere by anyone, black or white, of any quilt being used at any time.” In addition, no coded quilts from the time period have survived.
- However, according to Brackman, some of the patterns that are alleged to be part of the Underground Railroad code did not exist until after the Civil War, while others did not exist until after the Civil War.
- Many of the elements that have been attributed to the story—such as the use of quilts to mark safe homes along the way—”simply aren’t in the book,” she claims.
As Tobin points out, “we’re not talking about hundreds or thousands of people who are utilizing this code.” “The plot has developed in unexpected ways that we did not anticipate.”
Underground Railroad Quilt Code
My niece and her husband were driving through Iowa last year when this happened. They came to a halt at a rest spot in the vicinity of Wilton. Following that, she emailed me the photos you see below. The following is what the Iowa government’s traveliowa.com website has to say about the display: The highway rest area in the town of Wilton, which has interpretive panels that describe Cedar County’s role in the Underground Railroad as well as the narrative of the “Underground Railroad Quilt Code,” is a must-see if you’re traveling on I-80 through the town.
- The common practice of hanging blankets out to dry served as a visual reminder of these safe paths.
- If I had gone, I would have been quite disappointed with what I saw on the screens.
- I’ve included a link to an article I originally wrote three years ago, which explains the entire tale, below the bar.
- Do you think particular quilt blocks held special significance for slaves, possibly based on their African ancestors?
- According to the most renowned account of a quilt code, quilts were certainly a significant element of the Underground Railroad, and their history with it was unknown until quite recently, according to the most recent narrative.
- This design is made up of a variety of squares, rectangles, and right triangular shapes.
- Similar to how the Hausa design delineates and identifies key points throughout the village, the Bear’s Paw pattern might be utilized to delineate and identify features along the plantation’s southern border.
The bears’ tracks generated a map of the area.
Tobin and Raymond G.
Slaves were able to flee in all directions.
Yet they also traveled south to Mexico and Spanish Florida, where they disappeared into towns and rural places, where they sought refuge with Native American populations, according to historians.
The vast majority of them escaped on their own, receiving assistance only after reaching the North.
(The term “Underground Railroad,” which was first used in the 1830s, was coined by freedom activists decades before the term was coined.) While there was no physical railroad in existence, there was a “underground” movement of abolitionists and sympathizers that established a network of routes and safe homes.
There are documented realities concerning the Underground Railroad, both from those who helped to make it work and from those who managed to get away. However, it has been idealized and mythologized as well. It is not always simple to distinguish between reality and fiction.
Hidden in Plain View?
Prior to 1999, there were only a few sources that claimed to have discovered the existence of a patchwork code. According to Wikipedia, the first documented allegation of the usage of quilts dates back to a time when. “They believe quilts were hanging on the clotheslines to signify a house was safe for escape slaves,” said the narration of the 1987 film Hearts and Hands. According to the filmmaker’s research file, this claim is not backed by any material in the companion book and does not exist in the companion book.
A place of sanctuary (safe home) was indicated by the color black on the Underground Railroad, which was hung on the line by individuals who wore the color black.
Colors were particularly significant to slave quilt makers because they represented their culture.
“It was believed that the hue blue would protect the craftsman.” … The notion that slave quilts served as coded maps for escaping slaves, which was clearly presented as fiction in the novel Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, entered the realm of claimed fact in the 1999 bookHidden in Plain View, written by Raymond Dobard, Jr., an art historian, and Jacqueline Tobin, a college instructor in Colorado, and published by the University of Colorado Press.
- A book titled Hidden in Plain View, written by Jacqueline L.
- Dobard, Ph.D., was released in 1999 that contained the experiences of a lady named Ozella McDaniel Williams.
- In 1994, Tobin met Williams for the first time.
- When Tobin and “Ozella” met for the second of three sessions in 1997, “Ozella,” as the book refers to her, shared stories with him that she said were handed down through her family.
- There were eleven quilt blocks in all, according to Williams, in the code.
- Because it was common practice to air quilts on a regular basis, displaying the quilts in this manner would not raise suspicion among owners or overseers.
- Some versions feature additional building blocks as well.
As soon as they arrived to the Crossroads, they began digging a Log Cabin into the earth.
Bow Ties and Double Wedding Rings are worn as the couple enters the cathedral church, where they are married and exchanged.
Despite the fact that the book gives this extremely brief analysis, it also includes links, suppositions, and theories regarding what each of the blocks represents and means.
The authors write about another block, the Monkey Wrench block, saying, “Ozella told us that a quilt made of Monkey Wrench patterned blocks was the first of the ten quilts displayed.
Additionally, the writers give a description of the function of the blacksmith on plantation life, including his use of tools like the monkey wrench, to accompany this knowledge of the block.
A photograph of an African cloth is displayed in order to emphasize the significance of tools in the prior setting.
After more than 120 years since the Emancipation Proclamation, allegations of a patchwork code have arisen. Was it possible that the evidence had gone unnoticed all those years? Was the truth truly hiding in plain sight all this time?
What is the Truth?
Hidden in Plain View, even when written in layman’s words, will be a disappointment to anyone who is accustomed to reading scholarly research. As a matter of fact, the book reads like one continuous, frantic conjecture on the potential that quilts were used to aid slaves in their journeys to freedom. The connections to African symbolism in art and song do neither establish or refute the possibility of such a connection. This does not, by itself, disprove the premise. Finding the truth, on the other hand, is a little more challenging.
- Were quilts used to aid slaves on their journeys to freedom?
- Other contemporaneous facts, such as textile availability and use, for example, or direct connections between African symbolism and the patchwork code, may be used to bolster the case.
- Is it true that slaves made quilts, and if so, are there any remaining quilts that can be used to show it?
- The majority of the examples that have survived from before Emancipation were constructed for their masters rather than for the slaves themselves.
- The South had relatively few mills, and those that did exist were modest and specialized in rough fabric.
- Many of the quilts produced by slaves would have been “utility” quilts, because they were intended for their personal use.
- Quilts were less common than woven blankets, which were more common.
Both types of bed coverings dissolved over time after being washed with lye.
There are no known quilts that have been used to indicate or relay escape information, and there is no evidence to support this claim.
Some of the blocks have been documented as dating back to before the Civil War.
One issue with the documentation is that various names were allocated to blocks in different locations or at different periods, which created confusion.
Assuming that a single design was always known by the same name is a dangerous assumption to make.
Most modern quilters, assuming they are familiar with block names, would refer to it as a Bear’s Paw.
Which one, if any, was employed in this instance?
It was the late 1920s when the design of double wedding rings first appeared on the scene.
According to Leigh Fellner’s thorough examination of the quilt code: (Please note that this link is no longer operational) According to my research, the Log Cabin design appears to be exclusive to the Northern United States as a popular symbol of Union attitude; I have not been able to locate any recorded specimens that date from earlier than 1861.
- At that moment, the subterranean railroad was no longer in operation in the manner in which it had been before to World War II.
- Contrary to this, as with Emancipation, the pattern developed in the aftermath of the War.
- The relative scarcity of late nineteenth-century Log Cabin quilts manufactured in the former Confederate states is one indicator that a Union link persisted.” What kind of communication would have taken place through the usage of quilts?
- Every one of the 10 possible quilts, each depicting a different block, would represent a different piece of information.
- The authors (not Williams) also suggest that the quilts may have been utilized in the course of the journey, for example, to designate safe places.
- They talk about how various colors have different meanings, but this becomes particularly troublesome in the dark.
- The written record, according to historians, does not include any evidence of this conversation.
I read the text of the book Underground Rail Road by William Still and gave it a critical assessment.
His book makes no mention of quilts being used as a means of evading capture.
I did not personally study these records, but I am relaying the agreement of multiple historians on the subject.
There is no additional evidence to substantiate this practice.
It goes on to speculate about the Freemasons and the freedom of free blacks to go to the southern United States without fear of retribution.
However, none of these give conclusive evidence of the existence of a patchwork code, only shaky support for the notion.
I admit that the book is beautiful (I bought it myself), but it is fiction, not scholarly study.
I hope you enjoy it. Conclusion: According to respectable historians of both the Underground Railroad and quilts, there is insufficient evidence to support the idea that a quilt code was used to communicate in this manner.
Does it Matter?
Hiding in Plain View, even in layman’s terms, falls short of the mark for anyone who is accustomed to reading scholarly material. In reality, the book reads like a long, feverish musing on the notion that quilts were used to aid slaves in their journeys to liberation from slavery. In art and song, the connections to African symbolism are neither affirmative nor negative. Nevertheless, the premise remains valid. Finding the truth, on the other hand, is a little more challenging. The potential for answering the topic piqued the interest of historians, particularly those with special knowledge in quilts and other textiles.
- For example, strong evidence in favor might include testimony from escaped slaves or former slaves after liberation; testimony from freedom campaigners; public documents or current publications; and, among other things, surviving textiles with a lengthy lineage and accompanying documentation.
- As long as none of these pieces of evidence exist, there is no basis for the notion that quilts were used as part of an Underground Railroad communication system, assisting slaves in their attempts to elude capture.
- Quilts were produced by slaves, as we all know and have seen.
- In spite of the abundant supply of cotton in the southern states, fabric was in short supply even before the Civil War began.
- Northern and European fabrics were the most luxurious.
- The extent to which this was the case may also have been influenced by geographical variations.
- The structure was simpler as well.
The average slave received one blanket every two years throughout his or her time on the plantation.
There were also few garments to go around, and it was doubtful that quilts would be made from of leftover fabric or bits from “old” clothes.
Using the pieces from the supposed Quilt Code, did slaves create their own quilts?
The situation is different for certain people.
As a side note, it is possible that numerous block designs have the same name.
Examples include the Bear’s Paw pattern pictured above, which is now considered a conventional block.
“It was a Bear’s Paw,” Ozella Williams described it.
Is it possible to find out which one was used?
It was the late 1920s when the design for double wedding rings first appeared on the market.
Leigh Fellner’s thorough analysis of the quilt code yielded the following conclusions: Please note that this link is no longer operational.
This design was first seen in 1869, according to quilt historian Barbara Brackman in her bookQuilts from the Civil War: The First Hundred Years.
It was at that moment that the subterranean railroad ceased to function in the manner in which it had before.
Contrary to this, as with Emancipation, the pattern developed in the aftermath of the war.
The quilts were utilized to communicate, but in what way did they do so?
Why not communicate much of this in English rather than using a mechanism similar to a semaphore instead?
What method would a fugitive slave use to locate the quilt and see it clearly enough to read it, given that most of their trip was done in the protection of darkness?
Is there any evidence of quilts being used to communicate in code that has been documented through first-hand accounts or documentation?
Pamphlets and publications that include first-person narratives, such as histories recorded by the WPA in the 1930s, do not give proof of this exchange of messages.
Still, he assisted hundreds of slaves in escaping and interviewed each one of them individually.
Two additional sources are Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938, and North American Slave Narratives, a collection held by the University of North Carolina that contains “all the existing autobiographical narratives of fugitive and former slaves published as broadsides, pamphlets, or books in English up to 1920,” according to the collection’s description.
Only Ozella Williams’ oral history and a few of people who came after her provide evidence for the usage of quilts in this manner.
Is there any other evidence offered in the book that lends strong credence to the premise?
There is a comprehensive discussion of secret societies and the function of the griot (historian/storyteller) in African communities, which is included in this book.
There is also a connection between the patchwork code and African symbols and spiritual music.
As well as contemporary children’s literature, such as Deborah Hopkinson’s Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, the authors rely heavily on it for inspiration.
I apologize for any inconvenience. Conclusion: According to respectable historians of both the Underground Railroad and quilts, there is insufficient evidence to support the idea that a quilt code was used to communicate in this manner.