Quilting is a long standing tradition in the African American community. Quilting is a communal event to share stories, reminisce, and network. Quilting as a communal activity existed during enslavement as many were tasked with making quilts; but quilt making also became a means by which the enslaved bonded with each other, and to some extent slave owners and Whites.
The enslaved also made quilts for personal use (e.g., clothing and blankets) using whatever materials they could such as discarded clothes and burlap. Some were able to earn additional money selling their quilts during enslavement, and more used their quilting skills to earn a living after the Civil War. One noted quilt maker was Harriet Powers. Born into enslavement, Harriet Powers continued to quilt after she was freed. Two of her quilts are known to have survived. One, the “Bible Quilt” is on display at the National Museum of American History, while the second, “Pictoral Quilt” is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Her quilts are said to provide a narrative about her devout religious beliefs and important events of the day. The Bible quilt is pictured below.
In this post, we celebrate and honor the history of African American quilt making. We further recognize the skill and determination of the ancestors to adapt, survive, persist, and thrive. As such, in this post we review handmade quilts from black owned brands.
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- Artist Peche (advertisement) offers a selection of mixed media artistic and culturally themed quilts that include several portraits.
- Color Quilts By Carolyn (advertisement) offers a selection of quilts that emphasize an array of multicultural batiks.
- Emma’s Lovely Treasures (advertisement) offers a diverse selection of traditional quilts. The owner is a “Gee’s Bend” quilter, a locale well known for having a long history of quilt making and innovative designs.
- Gees Bend Place (advertisement) offers a selection of decorative quilts in several sizes. Gees Bend (also known as Boykin) is a predominantly African American town in rural Alabama that is well known for quilting.
- Hilda and Alyah Baker (advertisement) offer an African patchwork quilt.
- Just Faith Threads (advertisement) by Jocelyn Carter offers a selection of African themed quilts.
- Mary Go Round Quilts (advertisement) offers a diverse selection of full size and baby quilts.
- O.V. Brantley (advertisement) offers a large selection of thematic quilts. Mini quilts are also available.
- These Two Hands Inc. (advertisement) offers a selection of quilts made to order, and in several sizes. Many can be used for bedding.
- Quilts By Caster (advertisement) offers a diverse selection of cotton quilts. Baby quilts are also available. The owner is a “Gee’s Bend” quilter, a locale well known for having a long history of quilt making and innovative designs.
- Wakanda Quilts (advertisement) offers a selection of culturally thematic and African quilts.
- Alice Beasley offers quilts made of cotton and iridescent fabrics.
- Henry Holmes offers a diverse set of culturally themed artistic quilts.
In reviewing these quilts I hope you find at least one that works for you. Happy Black History Month!
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- “African American quilting” A long rich heritage.” African American Quilting From Slavery to the Present (womenfolk.com)
- Barnett Cash, Floris. “Kinship and Quilting: An examination of an African American tradition.” 1995. The Journal of Negro History. https://faculty.risd.edu/bcampbel/cash-quilting.pdf
- Matthews, Aundrea Lynn. “Quilting faith: African American quilts as source material for the study of African American religion.” 2015, October. QUILTING FAITH: AFRICAN AMERICAN QUILTS AS SOURCE MATERIAL FOR THE STUDY OF AFRICAN AMERICAN RELIGION (rice.edu)
- Robinson, Shantay. “The quilting tradition.” 2018, November 9. The Quilting Tradition – BLACK ART IN AMERICA™
- Wikipedia. “Harriet Powers.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harriet_Powers