What Did The Bear Paw Symbol On Quilts Mean On The Underground Railroad? (Professionals recommend)

What does the Bear Claw pattern mean in the wagon?

  • It could also mean that there were compartments built into the wagon to hide slaves. Excellent example of a bear claw or bear paw design. This pattern tells them to take a mountain trail out of view of the area. They need to follow the trail of bear tracks to the food and water that has been left for them.

What is the Bear Claw patterns believed secret message?

This pattern told slaves to pack their belongings because they were about to go on a long journey. Dobard said his favorite pattern was the bear’s paw, a quilt he believes directed slaves to head north over the Appalachian Mountains.

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 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 the significance of barn quilts?

Barn quilts tell stories about individual farms, historical events or communities while also adding visual interest to the countryside and increasing rural tourism.

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.

What was the quilt theory?

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 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 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.

Did slaves make quilts?

Slaves made quilts for the plantation family, sometimes under the supervision of the plantation mistress, but WPA interviews attest to the prevalence of quiltmaking in the slave quarters for their own use as well. Some slave seamstresses became highly regarded for their skill.

What is Quilt language?

Graphic Wit—the visual language of quilts First and foremost, quilt language is based upon patterns and their manipulation. Quilts speak through their arrangement of visual elements, regardless of whether they are pieced or appliquéd, made with a commonly used pattern or one that is unique to an individual quilt maker.

How old is the bow tie quilt pattern?

The Bow Tie was rarely used by Amish, but some rare examples of their use do exist. The pattern dates to the 1880s and was first published by the Ladies Arts Company in 1895. Like so many quilt patterns, it had other names: Colonial Bow Tie, Peekhole, True Lovers’ Knot, Dumbbell.

Where did quilting originate from?

Quilting can be traced back as far as ancient Egypt. In the British Museum is an ivory carving from the Temple of Osiris at Abydos found in 1903 which features the king of the First Egyptian Dynasty wearing a cloak or mantle that appears to be quilted.

Where did barn quilts originate?

The concept of barn quilts began with Donna Sue Groves and her wish to honor her mother, Maxine, and her Appalachian heritage by having a painted quilt hung on her barn in Adams County, Ohio. As is often the case, good ideas fall by the wayside when work and other obligations intervene.

What are the different quilt patterns?

Table of Contents

  • Log Cabin Quilt Patterns.
  • Flying Geese Quilt Patterns.
  • Star Quilt Patterns.
  • Patchwork and Nine Patch Patterns.
  • Bear Paw Quilt Patterns.
  • Traditional Celtic Square Quilt Patterns.
  • Other Traditional Quilt Patterns.

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.

  1. According to historians, the first quilt made by the seamstress to be displayed had a wrench pattern on it.
  2. In this pattern, slaves were instructed to pack their possessions because they would be embarking on a lengthy journey.
  3. “You were intended to follow in the bear’s actual footsteps,” Dobard explained.
  4. 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.


Image courtesy of Canva These are the two blocks that we will be talking about today: Bear’s Track and Drunkard’s Path. They are blocks that have been in use for a lengthy period of time. It goes without saying that this was the reason why no one was alarmed when quilts with these blocks were put on porches, fences, and clotheslines for slaves to view. Individuals who happened to observe them imagined the bedding was being washed or aired out. What is the origin of the term “Underground Railroad”?

There were no railways involved, and it was not an underground operation in the traditional meaning of the word.

Passengers were individuals who were traveling along a route.

The Bear’s Paw Quilt

TheBear’s Paw quiltwas displayed to urge travellers on the Underground Railroad to follow bear faeces on the trail that led to the station. They would then be able to find water and food in this manner. It goes without saying that they had to be on the lookout for bears! If you would want to build a variation of the Bear’s Paw block, you can find the instructions for doing so here. Image courtesy of Canva Drunkard’s Path is visible in the background of the shot above. I’ve been looking for a picture of a quilt that has all of the Drunkard’s Path blocks.

A quilt made entirely of this block will demonstrate how it came to be known as such. You may see an example of this pattern in its entirety by clicking here. It becomes easier to comprehend why Drunkard’s Path had the significance that it did as a result.

Why the Drunkard’s Path?

In what way did this pattern signify something to individuals who were traveling on the Underground Railroad? It implied that the region they were about to enter was densely populated with people looking for them with dogs. In order to avoid being tracked as readily by the dogs, it was suggested that they move more on a zig-zag pattern in their journey. If you want to learn how to create this block, you can find the instructions here. The block in the picture is put in a different way than the block in the other picture.

You have a lot of options for how you want to arrange it.

Some beliefs that affected quilting

A common superstition, possibly carried over from Africa, was that traveling in a straight path was bad luck and that evil spirits would have a more difficult time tracking you down if one traveled in crooked patterns instead. Another reason why triangles were utilized in quilts, both in the white and black communities, was to represent the trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which is represented by three triangles. Our theology and superstitions are frequently misunderstood. When the superstition is taken into consideration, it is simple to see why triangles are included in so many quilt designs.

Or, at least, that is how it appears to many members of the Black community.

I do not want to communicate in any of this,that these nice stories about quilts somehow offset the ugliness of slavery.

To be really honest, I do not wish to communicate that at all! Slavery was a horrible experience even in the best of circumstances. Adults being placed in a situation where they were deprived of their independence and were bought and sold like property must have been tremendously degrading. More horrifying was the manner in which families were divided up, as wives might be sold away from their husbands, and children could be sold as well, never to be seen again. No silver lining can be painted over the exploitation of humans as if they were objects to be possessed and used for profit.

  • The idea that many of those who lived in this manner were professed Christians is horrible beyond comprehension.
  • They didn’t have the option of acting like adults and using their freedom of choice, as human beings are meant to do.
  • In the best-case scenario, kids were instructed on how to read.
  • Even if we are kind to them, it is not the Godly way to treat other humans, and we should avoid doing so.

It is possible that they were beaten and mistreated in various ways in worse-case circumstances. They were unable to seek legal protection since they lacked legal remedy. They were unable to vote. It was impossible for them to have any rights as citizens in this country. It was a nightmare.

History is a funny thing. It tells us the facts of a given period of time.

People will look at us and say similar things about the things we accepted as a civilization, and particularly as Christians living in this culture, one hundred years from now, I’m confident. Do I believe that all remnants of slavery and the Confederacy should be demolished and destroyed? Absolutely. NO! Why? Because if we erase it and many other blemishes from our collective memory, we will lose sight of the lessons we have gained from our experiences. As is true of all of history, there were some positive outcomes as well as some negative ones.

See also:  What Was The Underground Railroad Book Pdf? (Suits you)

It’s hardly a good idea to toss the baby out with the bath water, is it?

They all had clay on the bottoms of their feet.

The Underground Railroad was a necessary and important element in our history.

For the Underground Railroad, there was a very compelling purpose for its existence. Many people risked their lives both in order to escape and in order to defend those who were attempting to flee the country. Slaves had excellent cause to flee, and they did it on purpose. It was vital in order to get away from slavery. This was not the kind of life any of them wanted for their children. They were prepared to put their lives on the line for it. It is estimated that nearly 100,000 slaves were able to escape using this route.

In the end, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Civil War came to an end a few years later.

However, it did begin the process of emancipating the slaves, although at a painfully sluggish pace.

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.

  1. I can see the potential benefits of such a system.
  2. I really want to think that took place.
  3. Sharon Tindall is a quilter and instructor who lives in Virginia.
  4. Johnson House, which was built in 1768 in the center of Germantown, has woodwork, flooring, and glass that are all original to the building.
  5. “I took a tour around the area to see where people slept and ate.
  6. The presence of the slaves, as well as the Johnson family who protected them, was represented by the hues in the quilt’s sky.
  7. 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.

Fact or Fiction: Were Quilts Used As Secret Codes for Slaves on the Underground Railroad?

The symbols that are employed in quilting have a convoluted or unknown background, which makes them very interesting. They are now recognized as the designs that distinguish antique quilts as unusual and one-of-a-kind. However, there are many who have long assumed that the symbols employed in quilts of the South during slavery were really utilized as secret signals for slaves fleeing on the Underground Railroad, and they are correct in their assumption. The majority of specialists now wonder whether this truly occurred.

courtesy of the Library of Congress

The Underground Railroad

An underground railroad network of abolitionists – both black and white – who assisted enslaved people in their attempts to escape through a network of safe homes and shelters was known as the Underground Railroad (UR). The Underground Railroad was backed by two major religious groups, the Quakers and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, from its inception in the late 1700s and continuing until the passage of the first of the Fugitive Slave Acts in 1793, when it was established. The Underground Railroad, as depicted in an 1893 picture, may have looked somewhat like this.

What if the most unobtrusive method to accomplish this goal was to hang a quilt out on the line?

The Quilt Code

Many people believe that specific quilts were employed as symbols during the Underground Railroad era, as evidenced by the publication of Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad in 2000 by authorsJacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. In the film Hidden in Plain View, which is based on interviews with elderly African American quilter Ozella Williams, it appears that the narrative of how symbols were used to lead escape slaves is told. The monkey wrench design is one of the patterns that is thought to have had significance for enslaved people traveling on the Underground Railroad.

  1. The wagon wheel, drunkard’s path, and tumbling blocks are some of the other designs that have been incorporated in the quilt code as well.
  2. Via/Flickr One theory is that the seamstress of a plantation would instruct the other slaves on the meaning of the quilt symbols and then put up the quilt symbols that were pertinent to impending travels, such as when a conductor was about to arrive in the area.
  3. It was believed that the presence of a black square in the middle of the log cabin quilt was an indicator of the presence of a safe home.
  4. courtesy of Wikimedia Commons However, there is very little strong evidence that these patchwork symbols were employed in this manner during the time.
  5. Some of the folklore includes some unexplainable anomalies, such as the bear’s paw design, which is difficult to explain.
  6. In any case, using this path would have taken significantly longer and been significantly less direct, increasing the likelihood of getting apprehended.
  7. The pattern of the bear’s paws.

It doesn’t matter what you believe: quilts from the nineteenth century are some of the best ever produced, and the accomplishments of people who traveled via the Underground Railroad are some of the most brave this country has ever witnessed.

Barn quilt patterns may tell a deeper story

Individuals and families fleeing slavery received critical aid from distinctive patterns painted on barns along routes that constituted the Underground Railroad in the years surrounding the American Civil War, according to historians. Danny Steiber of Waverly provided information on these “barn quilts” at a program held on Monday, Feb. 19, at the Lied Public Library in Clarinda. The “quilts” were actually enormous square pieces of the wooden barns that had been painted to seem like quilt squares made of cloth.

See also:  What Did The Slave Tradders Of The Underground Railroad Do? (The answer is found)

However, the patterns gained particular relevance during the anti-slavery Abolitionist movement that grew in intensity in the United States beginning in the 1830s.

The application had slides of individual squares and the information they carried, which Steiber demonstrated via slideshows.

The document, according to Steiber, instructed fugitive slaves to “proceed through the woods, load your baskets with food and goods, and then get to a crossroads.” That location, which was deemed to be safe, was symbolized by a patchwork square with four solid diamond shapes in the center of it.

Farm buildings were decorated in the style of a “log cabin,” with an outside edge consisting of a square with lines around the perimeter and a smaller solid square in the centre.

“If it had been any other color,” he explained, “the slaves would have been forced to go.” Slaves were also instructed to change their clothes in order to blend in with other people in the area by the “bow tie,” the “drunkard’s path,” which advised them to constantly alter their movements and not travel in a straight line, and the “North Star,” which directed them to take a boat across the Great Lakes by the “North Star.” As Steiber explains, “they were informed that the North Star was over Canada.” As a result, if they could bring themselves beneath the North Star, they would be liberated.

  1. Amity College at what is now College Springs served as a stop on the Underground Railroad’s several routes across Iowa, including one in Page County that crossed through Amity College.
  2. Routes from Mills County ran via Hastings and Emerson before continuing on to Red Oak in Montgomery County, where they ended.
  3. Routes via Bedford and Gravity were used by travelers in Taylor County.
  4. “The less one knew, the less one was able to disclose.
  5. This individual would be directed to convey the passenger to the next station by a message that had been provided ahead of time, according to Steiber.
  6. It is used to refer to a concept or a picture.
  7. The designs were made up of a variety of geometric forms and came in a variety of color combinations.

He has been collecting information about barn quilts for the past two and a half years and has delivered 101 talks on the subject over that time period. Become a subscriber to our daily email, Daily Headlines.

Untitled Document

� by FranO�Malley8 th Grade History TeacherBrandywineSchool DistrictTalleyMiddle School ���������One of the challenges I suspectmost social studies teachers in Delaware are facing rightnow centers on the task of trying to find ways to help studentsmaster the standards so that they will perform successfullyon the State assessments. If you are the kind of person Iam, you spend a great deal of your professional time tryingto analyze and isolate the individual pieces of the benchmarksthat have been established for the grade clusters in whichyou teach. As most of us have learned, each benchmark typicallyconsists of two or more assessable pieces � any of which mayfind its way onto the State test. Once the discrete piecesof a benchmark have been identified, we begin making predictionsabout how each construct will be assessed, then move on tothe task of locating resources that may help us convert phrasesinto meaningful units of instruction. �����������Locating the right resources is oftena miss and hit exercise involving many hours of searching,especially if your life gets increasingly more disorganizedas mine does over the course of any given school year. � ����������Recently,I decided to rearrange the books on my eighteen-shelf bookcasein an effort to reduce the amount of time I spend searchingfor potential resources. I made this decision after havingspent the better part of a morning searching unsuccessfullyfor a book that I purchased recently but have since misplaced.When I finished reorganizing, I sat way back in my recliningchair and gazed upon my finished work with a considerabledegree of satisfaction. (It doesn�t take much to make me happy.)Each shelf appeared unique unto itself, sensibly organized,and aesthetically pleasing �- a literary quilt, I thought. Suddenly, as I surveyed my finished work, my lids flewopen as my eyes zoomed in on that elusive little gem thatI had �misplaced� on the second shelf. �It had been there all the time. I yanked the book offof the shelf and started work on the lesson that appears below. Before you look at the lesson, here is a little aboutthe book.Hiddenin Plain View ���������In 1994, historian JacquelineTobin met Ozella McDaniel Williams, an African- American Quilter,in the Old Market Building of Charleston, South Carolina.Williams told Tobin a story that had been passed along fromgeneration to generation in her family. In general terms,Williams described a secret communication system that employedquilt- making terminology as a message map for slaves escapingon the Underground Railroad (UGRR). �����������Williams� story prompted Jacqueline Tobin to enlistthe help of Raymond Dobard, an art history professor and well-knownAfrican-American quilter, in an attempt to help unravel themystery of Williams� claim to an Underground Railroad QuiltCode. Their efforts led to the publication of a fascinatingbook entitledHidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quiltsand the Underground Railroad(1999).�����������While the thesis embedded within Tobin and Dobard�sbook has unraveled an intriguing topic for ongoing research,it has also generated important questions surrounding thecredibility of historical sources. �����������In this lesson, students will employpieces of the code that Williams, Tobin and Dobard presentto construct their own Underground Railroad quilt. In theprocess, teachers are encouraged to lead students into ananalysis of the credibility of historical evidence as it relatesparticularly to the transmission of Ozella McDaniel Williams�story. Goals:Students will develop an awarenessof the thesis which suggests that there may have been an UndergroundQuilt Code that provided signals to slaves escaping on theUnderground Railroad. Students will also learn how to analyzehistorical sources with the aim of evaluating the credibilityof historical theses. Objectives:At the conclusion of this lesson,students will 1. haveconstructed a quilt using the UGRR codes suggested inHidden in Plain View. 2. beable to explain the meaning of their quilts, 3. beable to list criteria that is useful in evaluating the credibilityof historical sources and claims, and 4. beable to apply criteria for evaluating the credibility of historicalsources and claims. Benchmarks Addressed: �����������*DelawareHistory Standard Two,Benchmark Two (6-8 Cluster) � �Examine historical documents,artifacts, and other materials and analyze them in terms ofcredibility, as well asthe purpose, perspective, or point of view for which theywere constructed.� Time to Complete:3 class periods. Materials Needed: �����������A copy or classroom set of the bookentitledHidden in PlainView: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad,construction paper, scissors, glue, and copies of Handout1 – the UGRR Quilt Code. Audience:intermediate/middle schoolstudents. Procedures: 1. Describethe UGRR Quilt Code research of Jacqueline Tobin and RaymondDobard to the students in a whole class setting. 2. Showa copy of the UGRR Quilt Code to the students on the overheadprojector and review the code with the students. Distributecopies of the UGRR Quilt Code (Handout 1). *Note – I developedthe Quilt Code chart using the information presented inHiddenin Plain View. You will want to consult the book to locatethe pattern illustrations for each quilt pattern name identifiedin the first column of the chart. Be sure to show studentscopies of the pattern illustrations. They will need the illustrationsto design their own construction paper quilts. 3. Dividethe class up into groups of 3-4 student teams. 4. Distributepieces of construction paper, scissorstape to eachgroup. 5. Tellstudents that their group task is to create a UGRR Quilt outof construction paper using the patterns, symbols and signalssuggested by Tobin and Dobard. 6. Afterthe students have completed their quilts, stop and ask thema series of questions that challenge them to think about thevariables that must be considered for determining the credibilityof a claim. For example, you may want to ask them, a. Doyou believe that the earth has been visited by aliens fromouter space? b. Ifsomeone told you that aliens have visited earth, would thatbe enough to convince you of alien visitations? (Incidentally,the bulk of Tobin and Dobard�s book describes the authors�attempts to corroborate Ms. Williams�s Quilt Code story, andstudents should be made aware of this). c. Whydo you (or do you not) believe that aliens have visited? d. Whatevidence do we have that aliens have visited? e. Whatevidence would you require to serve as proof of alien visitations(e.g. seeing the aliens themselves, viewing pictures of thealiens, reading articles in the newspaper, observing the presidenton TV telling the American people about aliens, gatheringmultiple pieces of evidence, concluding from popular consensus,etc.)? 7. Workingin their groups, �havestudents construct a list of criteria that can be used toevaluate the credibility of claims. 8. Readaloud or distribute copies of the Cuesta Benberry�s ForewordtoHidden in Plain Viewentitled �The Heritageof an Oral Tradition: The Transmission of Secrets in AfricanAmerican Culture� (1999, p. 2-3). Have the students summarizethe main points made by Benberry. Then, ask the students toapply their criteria for evaluating credibility to the UGRRQuilt Code theory and Benberry�s thought-provoking argument. 9. Asa final activity, you may want the students to design a researchplan (History Standard Two) that focuses on trying to uncoverevidence to support or refute the theory of the UGRR QuiltCode. Assessment: �����������Assessment1- Assess students on the degree to which their UGRR Quilts match the QuiltCode suggested by Ozella McDaniel Williams� and describedby Tobin and Dobard. Then, ask students to explain the symbolsand signals presented on their quilts. ����������� Assessment2� Have studentscompile a list of criteria that can be used to evaluate thecredibility of historical sources. Then, ask the studentsto defend or refute the UGRR Quilt Code thesis, using theirown criteria for determining credibility. You may want tohave the students rank their credibility rating on a scaleof 1-10 to help them understand that credibility is oftenmeasured in degrees rather than on a simplistic credible/incredibledichotomy. Handouts �����������Copies of the UGRR Quilt Code. Tips for the Teacher �����������For younger students, you may wantto build your lesson around the popular trade book,Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quiltby Deborah Hopkinson (1993). �In this fictional book, a young slave girlname Clara fashions a quilt map that she uses to escape toCanada on the UGRR. One of the authors ofHiddenin Plain View(1999) � Jacqueline Tobin � states thatSweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt�encouraged me� to write the storyof the UGRR Quilt Code (Tobin and Dobard, 1999, p.vii). ��Instead of creating a construction paper quiltfeaturing the UGRR quilt code, however, the students may createa quilt map out of construction paper that represents a mapthat slaves could have used as guides on the UGRR.References Hopkinson,D. (1993).Sweet Claraand the Freedom Quilt. New York: Alfred E. Knopf,Inc. Tobin,J. L. and Dobard, R. G. (1999).Hiddenin Plain View: A Secret Story of Quiltsand the Underground Railroad.New York: Anchor Books. Handout 1 The Underground Railroad Quilt Code
Quilt Pattern Name (seeHiddenin Plain Viewfor the actual quilt patterns) Message, Code or Signal Citation(location of information inHiddenin Plain View)
Monkey�s Wrench Gather all the tools needed on the journey to freedom. p. 70
Bear�s Paw Reminded slaves to follow the actual trail of bearfootprints because it would lead to food and water. p.84
Crossroads City of Cleveland, Ohio � a major terminal on theUnderground Railroad. p. 97
Log Cabin Draw a log cabin on the ground � a symbol to recognizepersons with whom it was safe to communicate. p. 104
Shoofly Dress up in �cotton and bows (get rid of slave clothesget a disguise). Go to the cathedral church, getmarried, and exchange double wedding rings. p. 104
Bow Ties � Make thebest use of time (bow ties turned sideways look likean hourglass. p. 107
Flying Geese Symbolizes the fleeing of slaves and indicated directionsin which they should travel. p. 111
Drunkard�sPath Encouraged fleeing slaves to follow a zigzag pathsimilar to the staggering gait of a drunkard. Doubleback occasionally in order to elude slave hunters. p. 113
Star Follow the North Star. p. 114
Wagon Wheel Pack all of the things (fit in a wagon) that wouldbe needed for the journey. p. 70
Tumbling Boxes Time to escape. p. 70

Did Slaves Really Use Quilt Codes on the Underground Railroad?

Michael Pollick is an American film director and producer. Escaping slaves most likely did not plan their routes based on 17 distinct quilts and secret messages. After a picture on the pedestal of a statue of the great black politician and abolitionist Frederick Douglass sparked debate about the historical veracity of the incident represented, the statue was removed from the pedestal in 2007. This quilt was created to celebrate the bravery of “conductors” along the Underground Railroad, which was a grassroots initiative to assist Southern slaves in their escape to the northern free states or Canada during the Civil War.

  • One narrative that may or may not be true includes the usage of quilt codes, which are hidden symbols that were woven onto quilts and posted outside friendly homes as signals for fugitive slaves trying to flee.
  • According to popular belief, the narrative of the quilt codes was discovered through interviews with former slaves or their relatives that took place in the 1930’s.
  • Despite the fact that slave owners were unlikely to have realized the importance of the quilt designs, slaves plotting an escape through the Underground Railroad were claimed to have memorized the quilt codes.
  • According to legend, particular fabric codes would be exhibited in a precise order in order to give slaves adequate time to prepare for their abolitionist mission.

In the second of these quilt codes, the slaves were instructed to pack their belongings as though they were going on a wagon trip, as represented by the “Wagon Wheel.” In the years that followed, the quilt codes were frequently altered to include precise information that fleeing slaves would need to know on their journey.

  1. The use of other quilt codes, such as “Bow ties” or “Britches,” would instruct fugitive slaves to dress in a more formal manner or to conceal their identity.
  2. Certain quilt codes, such as “Log Cabin” or “Shoo-fly,” were allegedly used to signify friendly members of the Underground Railroad or free blacks who were knowledgeable with the scheme if an escaped slave needed to find a safe place for food or shelter.
  3. There are certain inherent flaws with the tale of the quilt codes, despite the fact that it appears to match with the known historical facts of the Underground Railroad.
  4. Other quilting patterns associated with the quilt codes were not invented until after the war.
  5. If sympathetic “conductors” on the Underground Railroad did hang quilts or other banners as hidden signals, it would be impracticable to have 17 separate quilts holding all of the purported quilt codes in one house.
  6. It was the efforts of renowned black television program presenter Oprah Winfrey and others who sought out stories about the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, whether true or not, that helped to further publicize the topic of quilt codes and their significance.
  7. An InfoBloom contributor who contributes on a regular basis, Michael likes conducting research in order to satiate his insatiable curiosity about a wide range of obscure topics.

Michael worked as an English instructor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ before he decided to pursue a career as a professional writer.

Michael Pollick is an American film director and producer. An InfoBloom contributor who contributes on a regular basis, Michael likes conducting research in order to satiate his insatiable curiosity about a wide range of obscure topics. Michael worked as an English instructor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ before he decided to pursue a career as a professional writer.

You might also Like

26 Hollywood A-Listers Who Are Extremely Wealthy Are you able to guess which team these athletes represented? Any American should be able to pass this quiz on US history. Do you recognize any of the celebrities that wore these iconic ensembles? Predicting the weather with the most beautiful women in the world Amazing Optical Illusions that will fool your eyes and trick your brain You Don’t Want to Miss These 40 Wedding Photographic Faux Pas 17 Intriguing Maps That Will Change Your Perspective on the World

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.

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.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *