Saturday, January 14, 2012

Underground Railroad Quilts

Several postings on our Genea-Quilters Facebook page feature pre-Civil War US quilts.

Julia Langel writes: Did anyone else notice the mention of "Freedom Quilts" in the article about escaped slaves in the Sept 2011 NGS Quarterly? I thought I remembered some controversy about them, and the first hit on a google search is a wikipedia article about the consensus that they are probably a myth...
"In 1999 a theory surfaced indicating a possibility slaves used quilt blocks to alert other slaves about escape plans during the time of the Underground Railroad (approximately 1780-1860). Some historians support this theory while other historians dispute this as myth."
Lori Thornton writes: This reminds me of an excellent installment of the Elm Creek Quilts series by Jennifer Chiaverini entitled The Runaway Quilt. The plot involves this legend about the quilts and some genealogical and historical research by the characters.
To this, someone named Pat Richley-Erickson (grin) wrote: Julia Langel's post reminds me of the book Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad where the quilt "airing" on a window sill may have indicated if it was safe to proceed to the next station. explains "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."   "A groundbreaking work."