Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Underground Railroad Block of the Month - A Fascinating Story

Underground Railroad is a great book by Eleanor Burns and Sue Bouchard for Quilt in a Day. The back of the book reads, "The Underground Railroad story is one of the most dramatic chapters in our nation's history. It's a story about how countless slaves made their way out of bondage, risking death for freedom. Runaways met up with a "conductor" in the dark who whispered "follow me." They were guided on a arduous 250 mile journey from the South, intertwined throughout the North, and eventually ended in Canada. 

The most intriguing feature of the underground railroad was its lack of formal organization. Accounts are scarce because of the movement's secrecy. Ozella McDaniel Williams recently shared oral history of the Underground Railroad, passed down through her family for the last hundred and fifty years. Could her recount possibly be true? Were slaves really taught how to achieve safe passage just by following messages in certain quilt patterns?"

This book is filled with tips and lists to help you make your own beautiful Underground Railroad quilt. And we'd love to have you join us for this wonderful block of the month project!  We are using fabrics from Moda Kansas Troubles, Thimbleberries, and Civil War Reproductions.  We also include a story label on Printed Treasures that features a story depicting each block.  To order the book or the block of the month project, click here.  

And if you'd just like to read more about the history, here is another book to give you more perspective.  The fascinating story of a friendship, a lost tradition, and an incredible discovery, revealing how enslaved men and women made encoded quilts and then used them to navigate their escape on the Underground Railroad. 

In Hidden in Plain View, historian Jacqueline Tobin and scholar Raymond Dobard offer the first proof that certain quilt patterns, including a prominent one called the Charleston Code, were, in fact, essential tools for escape along the Underground Railroad. In 1993, historian Jacqueline Tobin met African American quilter Ozella Williams amid piles of beautiful handmade quilts in the Old Market Building of Charleston, South Carolina. With the admonition to "write this down," Williams began to describe how slaves made coded quilts and used them to navigate their escape on the Underground Railroad. But just as quickly as she started, Williams stopped, informing Tobin that she would learn the rest when she was "ready." During the three years it took for Williams's narrative to unfold--and as the friendship and trust between the two women grew--Tobin enlisted Raymond Dobard, Ph.D., an art history professor and well-known African American quilter, to help unravel the mystery.

Part adventure and part history, Hidden in Plain View traces the origin of the Charleston Code from Africa to the Carolinas, from the low-country island Gullah peoples to free blacks living in the cities of the North, and shows how three people from completely different backgrounds pieced together one amazing American story.  To order your copy, click here.  

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