underground railroad quilt patterns meanings

During the time of the underground railroad, safehouses had to be made so slaves can have a place to stay and get information to know when the "railroad" would come. Tobin and Dobard found some quilts that had unusual knot patterns. “I have taken the gifts God has given me and I’m returning them back to Him through the quilt codes.”, Scholar Marilyn Motz has a definition for belief that seems to fit: “a process of knowing that is not subject to verification or measurement within the framework of a modern western scientific paradigm.”, As she points out, “the term belief actually calls into question its own validity.” And anyways, “we usually describe our own beliefs as knowledge.”. Centered on an empowering account of enslaved African Americans who ingeniously stitched codes into quilts to signal those seeking freedom in the North toward safe haven, this gratifying story has stirred controversy within the world of quilt scholarship. Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 13, 2018: There were many such signs and meanings behind these quilts which were used to point escaping slaves in the right direction towards safety. It meant gather your tools and get physically and mentally prepared to escape the plantation. When a person believes something, they have no need of proof. Based on surveys of quilts made during these years, the evidence for some of these patterns just isn’t there, breaking the spell of this captivating story. Some historians float the issue that many of the quilt patterns cited as directives for enslaved peoples probably did not yet exist during the height of the Underground Railroad, between 1850 and 1860. This was network of abolitionists who helped slaves escape to Ohio and Canada. Whether or not you believe Tindall’s interpretation, you might agree her belief provides poetic justifications for belief versus fact. The scheme was assisted by abolitionists and others sympathetic to the cause of the escapees. Were they supposed to wait until spring if the sky wasn’t clear? This is an alphabetical list of some of the names given to quilt blocks throughout history. By life. Sew a part of history. Quilt historians and Underground Railroad experts are not all in agreement with the quilt-code theory. When Marie Webster wrote the first known book on quilting in 1915 she referred to the Jacob's Ladder pattern in this way, "The bold and rather heavy design known as 'Jacobs Ladder' is a good example of a pieced quilt. You feel their presence. Anecdotal evidence, based on oral folklore, suggests that during the Civil War, a Log Cabin quilt with a black center hanging on a clothesline was meant to signal a stop for the Underground Railroad. Soon the story has lifeblood independent of its origins, and there’s no stopping it. Slaves couldn't write or read, and that gave them a problem. If the sky wasn’t clear, look for or listen to the geese flying north in the spring.”. It also shows some signs that recommended slaves what to do. Printable Underground Railroad Quilt Code Game This idea has been stuck in my head for awhile, ever since I heard about how quilts were used to communicate to runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Finally enslaved peoples were free to roam without running. 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. This code tells the slaves to box up their belonging that they want to take with them on their trip on the Underground Railroad. Books that emphasize quilt use. We thank you for your support! There is much written about the use of quilts during the Underground Railroad days. 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. Someone else we recorded said that her family hid important papers in the binding of the quilt. “There will always be people who believe,” she concedes. Some people believe that certain classic quilt blocks were used to send messages to slaves escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Today, we do this mainly by writing and talking. “One woman who was originally from South Carolina but lived in Detroit said she learned quilting as a child in South Carolina. To join them all together, people used to sew a string through all the layers and tie it off with knots. Safe houses, hopefully no farther than 10-11 miles apart, were called The Online Quilt Block Pattern Library. Sharon Tindall, “Colorful Underground Railroad Sampler,” 2008, cotton, 88 x 70”. 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. Quilt historians and Underground Railroad experts are not all in agreement with the quilt-code theory. It can also represent that they need to seek shelter. North was the direction of traffic on the Underground Railroad. How cute is this? MacDowell’s team recorded almost fifty interviews. Underground Railroad Quilt Block Meanings People have long believed that the symbols used in quilts of the South during slavery were actually used as secret messages for slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. This Railroad quilt pattern is part of the popular underground railway quilts from the 19th century. Sharon Tindall is a Virginia-based quilter, educator, and one in a tradition of contemporary quilters who design textile works inspired by this “quilt code.”, “When I’m creating a quilt, I’m focused on the purpose of the quilt,” she says. Underground Railroad Symbols Andrew Jackson was the 7th American President who served in office from March 4, 1829 to March 4, 1837. The title drew me in right away. Feb 1, 2020 - People have long believed that the symbols used in quilts of the South during slavery were actually used as secret messages for slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. 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. The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early to mid-19th century, and used by enslaved African-Americans to escape into free states and Canada. “I walked around where they slept, where they ate. One way that they can do this is by using pictures or symbols. Between 1910 and 1920, the African American population of Detroit, Michigan, increased by more than 600 percent. Underground Railroad Quilt Patterns And Meanings. Underground Railroad Quilt Codes Secret messages in the form of quilt patterns aided slaves escaping the bonds of captivity in the Southern states before and during the American Civil War. I think my favorite would be the tumbling blocks. Amongst the patterns which are said to have held meaning for enslaved persons on the Underground Railroad was the monkey wrench pattern, which supposedly advised slaves to begin to pack the things they would need for their journey. The slaves could follow the geese to water, food, and a place to rest. The Underground Railroad was the secret path that enslaved people used to escape from their owners. Thank Goodness for these people. “Of course there is no documentation! The late Ms. Williams was an African American, a former school administrator and had a law degree from Howard University. This power point presentation by Debra Bays tells the story of the role of quilt blocks in the journey north along the Underground Railroad. Email powered by MailChimp (Privacy Policy, Terms of Use), Sharon Tindall, “The Johnson House,” 2019, cotton batik, Dupioni silk, tulle netting, Swarovski crystals, 40 x 28”, Sharon Tindall’s interpretation of the Flying Geese quilt pattern, 2019, Dupioni silk, cotton, 19 x 19”, In this quilt, Sharon Tindall combines two traditional block patterns: The North Star and Jacob’s Ladder. Underground railroad quilt meanings. It came off like verse, or a nursery rhyme. They jumped to conclusions without documentation.”. To define “fact” is no easy undertaking. This antique quilt is a Rose Wreath hand appliqued quilt by Jeffie Beaver (Mrs. A. W. Smith 1894-1985). The Underground Railroad Quilt Codes* Secret messages in the form of quilt patterns helped enslaved people escape the bonds of captivity in the Southern states before and during the American Civil War. Susan Hazelton (author) from Sunny Florida on July 13, 2018: I am glad you enjoyed this article. They don’t have to do anything except believe. Beautifully sewn vintage log cabin quilt. 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. The Underground Railroad has always been an interest. The Underground Railroad has always been an interest. How the Quilt Code of the Underground Railroad enabled the slaves to run away from slavery safely. Sew a part of history. 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. Quilt showing many of the Underground Railroad Quilt squares. Built in 1768 in the heart of Germantown, Johnson House’s woodwork, flooring, and glass are all original to the house. The Sailboat quilt block tells the slaves to take a sailboat across the Great Lakes to safety. SweetiePie from Southern California, USA on November 23, 2018: Susan Hazelton (author) from Sunny Florida on July 14, 2018: I love to quilt myself, it's true that it does give beautiful historic stories. Now the lineage of artisans using quilt codes is robust. According to legend, a safe house along the Underground Railroad was often indicated by a quilt hanging from a clothesline or windowsill. Back in the days when slavery was prevalent, and the Civil War was quickly approaching there were people who were bound and determined to help slaves reach their goal of freedom. “If people’s lives are at stake, then it stands to reason that there would be no trace of the quilts,” Atlanta-based quilt scholar Mary Twining-Baird argues. Unfortunately, the quilt was lost in a flood and there are no pictures, which serves as logic for the general dearth of material evidence of quilts codes today. Join our mailing list and help us with a tax-deductible donation today. The log cabin quilt block is extra famous and extra traditional. This pattern tells them to take a mountain trail out of view of the area. Printable underground railroad quilt code game this idea has been stuck in my head for awhile ever since i heard about how quilts were used to communicate to runaway slaves on the underground railroad. National Geographic and the Kennedy Center developed elementary school curricula that referenced the codes. Besides offering wonderful results as you place your blocks in your quilt, directional blocks are good choices to use as "connector blocks", used side by side with a different block which results in a secondary pattern emerging. The punishments were stiff for helping a slave escape. So, how did the Underground Railroad begin? Though not all of her quilts are coded, Tindall is a believer and defender of the codes. Photo courtesy of Sharon Tindall. freedom using the Underground Railroad quilt code. This square mean that they need to walk a zig-zag path. The Bow Tie block means to dress in disguise. Such is the case with Kaluli people of Papua New Guinea, who believe the spirits of their dead take up in particular animals, namely pigs and birds. So it was with the underground railroad. Sarah Ives, in National Geographic News (Feb. 5, 2004): . They need to follow the trail of bear tracks to the food and water that has been left for them. Wagon Wheel This was the second pattern to be … They need to express their thoughts, dreams, and needs. At its center, a quilt is an assemblage of historical and creative cues in the form of fabrics, shapes, symbols, textures and colors. Other patterns that have been included in the quilt code are the wagon wheel, drunkard’s path, and tumbling blocks. They carried with them quilts and the stories of an enslaved South. “If you’re wondering about our irritation, I think it’s more frustrating that the codes keep getting presented as fact.”. Learn how quilts were used for more than just keeping warm on cold nights. “I consider myself a Believer in Jesus Christ, woman of Faith, storyteller and a creator of quilts,” she wrote to me. The zig-zaging walk and doubling back would help conceal the fact that the slave was trying to escape. Centered on an empowering account of enslaved African Americans who ingeniously stitched codes into quilts to signal those seeking freedom in the North toward safe haven, this gratifying story has stirred controversy within the world of quilt scholarship. The most famous telling of a quilt code says that indeed, quilts were a vital part of the Underground Railroad, and their history with it was unwritten until very recently. 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. Seldom do we find a quilt pattern with just one name. The punishment for the black person was even worse...whipping, hanging, or burning. PUBLISHED February 5, 2004 Two historians say African American slaves may have used a quilt code to navigate the Underground Railroad. “You really get a sense of enslaved people there,” she says. This interesting quilt is made with the tumbling blocks pattern. 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. Quilt making is a beautiful, traditional art form, and tells stories rich in history. They matter because we believe them, so, naturally, and sometimes quickly, they become some of the disparate pieces of the systems that define us. Nowadays, some African American women make coded quilts for their daughters and granddaughters, and that will keep happening. Excellent example of a bear claw or bear paw design. 21 Underground Railroad Railroad by Becky Brown Railroad can symbolize the end of the Underground Railroad, a change in the strategy of escape from slavery. Other patterns that have been included in the quilt code are the wagon wheel, drunkard’s path, and tumbling blocks. These symbols were placed onto quilts to help the slaves escape. Well if not, a brief history is that it was not a train at all, but a secret network of people who assisted slaves during the 19th century to escape from the southern states, staying in secret and hidden "safe houses" on the way. Thanks for assembling this interesting post. In art, students can make their own quilt patterns and describe the meaning behind their selections. Sharon Tindall uses a historical pattern made up of triangles and rectangles called Flying Geese. There she met weavers who were braiding in a code she herself is using. While researching quilts in South Africa, she made the acquaintance of contemporary quilters who have—“lo and behold!”—caught wind of the book and started coding quilts of their own. The barn quilts are generally chosen from a family's own colorful quilt pattern that has been passed down through the years. We tell unforgettable stories about people, ideas, and a wide array of arts and traditions that help us explore where we have come from and where we are going. It was traditional for slaves to leave handmade flower wreaths on the graves. For them, the codes are poetry, healing, and, especially, a means of expressing history. Sometimes these quilts would be casually thrown over a porch banister or hung out on a clothesline. ... QUILT PATTERNS & THEIR MEANINGS Monkey Wrench This meant the slaves were to gather all the tools they might need on the journey to freedom. First of all, what the heck are quilt codes? Photo provided. “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” 2014, orange silk, cotton batik, 54 x 60”, Sharon Tindall, “Follow the Drinking Gourd (Green),” 2019, green batik, printed cotton, 26.5 x 26.5”. Printable Underground Railroad Quilt Code Game This idea has been stuck in my head for awhile, ever since I heard about how quilts were used to communicate to runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad. Come and learn the meaning of the blocks said to have lent the slaves a helping hand to freedom. How could this interpretation of a quilt block have directed slaves hundreds of miles along a cruel course, across canyons and rivers, all the way to Pennsylvania, Ohio, or Indiana? The log cabin quilt square represents the message that the person in that spot is safe to speak to. The Language of Quilts Since the beginning of time, people have always needed to reach out to others. Since much of this information was transmitted orally and not written down, we may speculate on the meaning of Underground Railroad symbols and how they were interpreted by runaway slaves. Were they literally supposed to follow the geese? July 04, 2018 Post a comment Ppt Underground Railroad Quilt Blocks Powerpoint Underground Railroad Quilt Code Catbird Quilt Studio Old American Quilts Held A Secret Code That Led Thousands To Quilts … One craft was that of quilting. “I’m thankful I am able to create something of comfort.”. Underground Railroad was and how African slaves, known as fugitives, “rode” it to freedom. Quilts with patterns named wagon wheel tumbling blocks and bear s paw appear to. Two Quakers in particular were thought to have saved 3,000 slaves themselves. Their patterns and blocks were a code, providing direction, signifying safety, and issuing warnings (according to some historians). “The risk is that it is not a true story,” MacDowell says. I really like all the quilts, but I liked the rose wreath the best. Some people believe that certain classic quilt blocks were used to send messages to slaves escaping to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The home of Levi and Catherine Coffin's home was used for years as a station, or stop along the way to freedom. In recent years, one of the most powerful quilt myths to emerge has centered on the role quilts may have played in the Underground Railroad. For something to qualify as a fact, it needs evidence. I want to convey a message of hope, freedom, love for the slaves.”. This quilt means to follow the flying geese to safety. Come and learn the meaning of the blocks said to have lent the slaves a … Support the Folklife Festival, Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, sustainability projects, educational outreach, and more. She was previously the director of publishing for Cfile Foundation, where she wrote, edited, and published extensively on the topic of contemporary and historic ceramic arts. The Underground Railroad Quilt Codes* ... pattern represented a different meaning. That is to say, the authenticity of quilt codes is, among other things, a matter of emphasis. Our conversation stretched to weeks as I sought more detailed information about how they were used. She knows how rampant the story of quilt codes has become. So, if we truly believe something, as Tindall believes that enslaved people running north were guided by the Flying Geese pattern in quilts, we may have trouble seeing the difference between belief and fact. Tindall hopes her handmade quilts hanging in the Johnson House, a crucial station on the Underground Railroad and now a National Historic Site in Philadelphia, embody the spirit of the house and the presence of those who passed through. The quilts were placed one at a time on a fence as a means of nonverbal communication to alert escaping slaves. When we see an uplifting story online, printed in Times New Roman, we tend to just accept it as truth. Eleanor Burns shares a story passed down through families about a link between slave-made quilts and the Underground Railroad. Some of the most common were … Tools meant: something with which to build shelters, compasses for determining direction, or tools to serve as weapons for defending themselves. But there are many other ways people can communicate as well. Quilt showing many of the Underground Railroad Quilt squares. November 13, 2019 Post a comment ... Quilts Of The Underground Railroad Quilting Pattern Png Patchwork Healing Quilting Club Demonstrates How Patterns B O N N E L L A R T C O M Underground Railroad Class I love all the quilt square designs, especially the tumbling blocks, I am not sure why. Ms. While every quilt made holds a special meaning to the quilter, there are some quilts and quilt blocks that have a much greater significance in the grand scheme of history. Are these quilts harming anyone? Quilts were often made to commemorate important family events such as marriage, a birth, or moving to a new place. Resembling a log cabin, these blocks are created with layer rectangles. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, many Log Cabin quilts were made by the foundation method with a … As a solution, they decided that safehouses will have quilts hanging from them, with the designs telling the slaves what should happen. 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. For Tindall, the quilts become vehicles for the voices and footprints of people running for their lives. By life. Susan Hazelton (author) from Sunny Florida on July 20, 2019: Thank you Pam Oglesby I am glad you enjoyed t. It combined two of my favorite interest- the Civil War and quilting. Each quilt pattern had a different meaning. We delve into the complex lives of individuals and communities to find what inspires and motivates people as they respond to animating questions at the center of contemporary life. Not dates, examples, nor firsthand accounts.

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