Beautifully sewn vintage log cabin quilt. Other patterns that have been included in the quilt code are the wagon wheel, drunkard’s path, and tumbling blocks. She felt a kind of kinship. It was traditional for slaves to leave handmade flower wreaths on the graves. This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional. The slaves, the Johnson family who protected them, that presence was the colors in the sky of the quilt. First of all, what the heck are quilt codes? Some are political, patriotic or have historical significance. Nowadays, some African American women make coded quilts for their daughters and granddaughters, and that will keep happening. This secret path was neither underground nor a railroad. One way that they can do this is by using pictures or symbols. Sew a part of history. Prior to 1999, the codes were unheard of even to the African American quilting community. Tindall shared her beliefs on a trip to Liberia, a West African nation originally founded as a colony by the American Colonization Society to repatriate freed and free-born black people from America. This is a quilt from early 1900's/ What a pretty pattern. Quilt showing many of the Underground Railroad Quilt squares. Someone else we recorded said that her family hid important papers in the binding of the quilt. The Bow Tie block means to dress in disguise. Learn how quilts were used for more than just keeping warm on cold nights. Their patterns and blocks were a code, providing direction, signifying safety, and issuing warnings (according to some historians). Sew a part of history. Should we be concerned with hard evidence the Kaluli can provide for these deep-rooted belief systems? While many have questioned this theory, it remains part of the folklore that surrounds the Underground Railroad, and quilt codes are incorporated into the Black History Cairn in … Soon the story has lifeblood independent of its origins, and there’s no stopping it. Slaves could not read or write; it was illegal to teach a slave to do so. I am fascinated by the symbols and how they displayed them It was a labor of love. Susan Hazelton (author) from Sunny Florida on November 27, 2018: SweetiePie I like them all in varying degrees. Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on July 14, 2018: What an interesting article. The late Ms. Williams was an African American, a former school administrator and had a law degree from Howard University. These quilts were embedded with a kind of code, so that by reading the shapes and motifs sewn into the design, an enslaved person on the run could know the area’s immediate dangers or even where to head next. Railroad workers But there are many other ways people can communicate as well. “Now, I would not jump to any conclusions that every African American quilter held their needle pointing to the north, and that is the problem with the Hidden in Plain View book. The Underground Railroad Quilt Codes* ... pattern represented a different meaning. The log cabin quilt block is extra famous and extra traditional. Many have religious or Biblical names or are inspired by the sky, stars or heavens. Maybe the protocols for experiences of belief versus fact are just different. Some of the most common patterns were “Monkey Wrench,” “Star,” “Crossroads” and “Wagon Wheel.” Quilts slung over a fence or windowsill, seemingly to air, passed on the necessary information to slaves. If I slave was walking south no one would bother them. So, how did the Underground Railroad begin? None of these institutions questioned the veracity of Tobin and Dobard’s story; instead, they published book reviews as human-interest pieces, calling it “captivating” and “fascinating,” and the public lapped it up like hard fact. “Almost every February, stories appear in papers across the country,” MacDowell explains, referencing African American History Month. Quilts were often made to commemorate important family events such as marriage, a birth, or moving to a new place. This Railroad quilt pattern is part of the popular underground railway quilts from the 19th century. Tindall uses combinations of cottons, raw Dupioni silks, Swarovski crystals, natural fibers, Malian mud cloth, and even glitter to convey the spiritual, intangible components of her narrative compositions. In 1999, Jaqueline Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard published Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad , and the story cycloned through trusted centers of news and knowledge: the New York Times Book Review, NPR, and others. It is believed that it might have been started by Quakers. She recently gave a lecture about them to a full room in Johnson House. Some of the most common were … MacDowell’s team recorded almost fifty interviews. She encountered an old quilt that “was stitched like it had been sewn with a crowbar.”, “It was a map, of course! Sarah Ives, in National Geographic News (Feb. 5, 2004): . According to legend, a safe house along the Underground Railroad was often indicated by a quilt hanging from a clothesline or windowsill. Bow Tie = Dress in disguise to appear of a higher status, Bear Paw = Follow an animal trail through the mountains to find water and food, Log Cabin = Seek shelter now, the people here are safe to speak with. Angels are on the way ps pinned, The Underground Railroad: Many Paths to Freedom, The Underground Railroad: A Code of Secrecy, Part II, The Underground Railroad - A Road to Freedom. Sharon Tindall, “Colorful Underground Railroad Sampler,” 2008, cotton, 88 x 70”. There is much written about the use of quilts during the Underground Railroad days. Several years later, quilter Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard became fascinated with Williams’ story and created a sampler quilt based on the secret code, publishing the patterns in the book The Underground Railroad Sampler. Her mother taught her (as did her grandmother teach her mother) that you always hold a needle pointing in the direction of the North as you quilt it, because that is where opportunities are. Underground Railroad Symbols Andrew Jackson was the 7th American President who served in office from March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837. By Gillian Valladares Castellino Underground Railroad quilt block patterns and what they were supposed to have meant: Source: Underground Railroad Qui… Article by Tiffany Avery-Scott. This square mean that they need to walk a zig-zag path. The pretext for her belief in quilt codes is not unlike a person trying to explain or provide supporting evidence for a belief in God. Perhaps the code, true or not, is a vehicle for African Americans to explore the trauma they inherited—and the hope. One way that they can do this is by using pictures or symbols. This code tells the slaves to box up their belonging that they want to take with them on their trip on the Underground Railroad. Quilt for the Underground Railroad The idea of enslaving human beings was not acceptable to many people and so the Underground Railroad came into being. For Tindall, the quilts become vehicles for the voices and footprints of people running for their lives. I really like all the quilts, but I liked the rose wreath the best. I love all the quilt square designs, especially the tumbling blocks, I am not sure why. She told Ms. Tobin that specific block patterns in quilts had coded meanings for the Underground Railroad, codes which had been handed down orally in her family for generations. Drunkard’s Path = Zig-zag as you go along in case you are being stalked by hounds, Double Wedding Ring =Now it is safe to remove your chains and shackles. She had retired and was selling quilts. They need to express their thoughts, dreams, and needs. You have given us beautiful examples of the meanings of quilt designs...The Bow Tie is among my favorites. I want to convey a message of hope, freedom, love for the slaves.”. Susan Hazelton (author) from Sunny Florida on July 13, 2018: I am glad you enjoyed this article. Quilt making is a beautiful, traditional art form, and tells stories rich in history. 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