Wahlman wrote the foreword for Hidden in Plain View. In Stitched from the Soul (1990), Gladys-Marie Fry asserted that quilts were used to communicate safe houses and other information about the Underground Railroad, which was a network through the United States and into Canada of "conductors", meeting places, and safe houses for the passage of African Americans out of slavery. Americans eager to discuss slavery are fascinated by tales of quilts used as signals in the dangerous journey to freedom. Well-intentioned white abolitionists, many of whom were Quakers, ran it. Whether fact or fiction, the idea of quilts being used on the Underground Railroad to communicate to runaway slaves is both an intriguing idea and a plausible one. 4. It ought to be rooted in real and important aspects of his life and thought, not a piece of folklore largely invented in the 1990s which only reinforces a soft, happier version of the history of slavery that distracts us from facing harsher truths and a more compelling past. To many of us, the use of quilts as messengers on the Underground Railroad (UGRR) is a myth. 1893 painting of what the Underground Railroad might have looked like. Fact Sheet . He likens the coding of the quilts to the language in Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, in which slaves meant escaping but their masters thought was about dying. [6], Even though the book tells the story from the perspective of one family, folk art expert Maud Wahlman believes that it is possible that the hypothesis is true. Every quilt tells a story. Quilts and codes: Folklore or fact, quilted messages of the … Via/ Wiki Commons. 2. For every phrase write fact or fiction on your paper. 7:00 p.m. [4] Noted historians did not believe that the hypothesis was true and saw no connection between Douglass and this belief. This pattern has been alternately said to warn those escaping that they would have to travel through bear country (the mountains) or an instruction for them to follow bear tracks because they would to food and water. Oct 1, 2019 - Explore Cheryl Christmas's board "Underground Railroad", followed by 534 people on Pinterest. The "Quilt Code" A hot topic in Black History is the story of quilts and the Underground Railroad. It might be disappointing for those who love antique quits to hear that this intriguing story isn’t true, but there is still so much to love about them just based on the work that went into each one alone. The Underground Railroad operated throughout the South. Presented by quilter, Micki Angyal. LOL! Two historians say African American slaves may have used a quilt code to navigate the Underground Railroad. It was a beginning, not an end-all, to stir people to think and share those stories. Even so, escaping slavery was generally an act of "complex, sophisticated and covert systems of planning". It has been disputed by a number of historians. And sometimes that story has far reaching influence. See more ideas about underground railroad quilts, underground railroad, quilts. The justice meted out in the Mountains was sure and swift, making it different from that in the surrounding community. 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. Stan Grizzle, our 2019 Black History Monthpresenter attended and he recalls his grandmother telling stories about the quilts … Former slave photographed in the 1930s, name unknown. The Archives, 178 McKellar Street. June 8, 2020 Mary Simpson. Fact or Fiction? The first “stops” along the Underground Railroad were found in the South. They can say volumes. Either way, to follow this route would have taken much longer and been much less direct, leading to an increased chance of being caught. It’s no big surprise that the Quilt Code story caught on. Books featuring the Underground Railroad - The Novel Tourist Jul 18, 2017 - Explore Cynthia Mocklar's board "Underground Railroad Quilts" on Pinterest. Another widely publicized theory is that safe places or abolitionist homes along the way would hang out certain quilts in order to further direct slaves escaping the South. Beginning as early as the late 1700s following the first of the Fugitive Slave Acts in 1793, the Underground Railroad was supported by two main religious groups: the Quakers and the African Methodist Episcopal Church. [2] The idea for the book came from Ozella McDaniel Williams who told Tobin that her family had passed down a story for generations about how patterns like wagon wheels, log cabins, and wrenches were used in quilts to navigate the Underground Railroad. [3] He also said that there are no memoirs, diaries, or Works Progress Administration interviews conducted in the 1930s of ex-slaves that mention quilting codes. A partial list of some of the most common myths about the Underground Railroad would include the following: 1. [1], The 1999 book Hidden in Plain View, by Raymond Dobard, Jr., an art historian, and Jacqueline Tobin, a college instructor in Colorado, explores how quilts were used to communicate information about the Underground Railroad. The theory that quilts and songs were used to communicate information about the Underground Railroad, though is disputed among historians. Slaves created so-called “freedo… 3. After the U.S. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850, the law forced free northern states to return escaped slaves. "[7] Fergus Bordewich, the author of Bound for Canaan: The Underground Railroad and the War for the Soul of America, calls it "fake history", based upon the mistaken premise that the Underground Railroad activities "were so secret that the truth is essentially unknowable". We know them today as the designs that make antique quilts so special and unique. Various blocks in the quilts gave the slaves clues as to where they had to go. "[4] He called the book "informed conjecture, as opposed to a well-documented book with a "wealth of evidence". But, there are those who have long taken for granted that the symbols used in quilts of the South during slavery were actually used as secret messages for slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. The book at the center of the controversy, Hidden in Plain View, A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Raymond Dobard and Jacqueline Tobin (1999), offers no documentary evidence that the theory advanced is valid, cites no independent sources, and offers in illustration newly made quilts. He also stated there was no mark stating he had to knock. He says that most of the people who successfully escaped slavery were "enterprising and well informed. In the book Jackie and I set out to say it was a set of directives. In anticipation of Colson Whitehead’s visit to campus, three Lesley professors held a symposium in Washburn Lounge to discuss – US News and World Report", National Museum of Australia - 1894 Autograph Quilt, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, The Railroad to Freedom: A Story of the Civil War, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Quilts_of_the_Underground_Railroad&oldid=998274676, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Fellner, Leigh (2010) "Betsy Ross redux: The quilt code. Some of the folklore has some inexplicable discrepancies like the bears paw pattern. Underground Railroad Code: fact or fiction? Title: Quilts; Underground Railroad 1 Quilts Underground Railroad. Fact or Fiction: Were Quilts Used As Secret Codes for Slaves on the Underground Railroad? But, there is little hard evidence that these quilt symbols were used in this way. Via/ Library of Congress. I'm still going to believe it to be non-fiction. In Stitched from the Soul (1990), Gladys-Marie Fry asserted that quilts were used to communicate safe houses and other information about the Underground Railroad, which was a network through the United States and into Canada of "conductors", meeting places, and safe houses for the passage of African Americans out of slavery. All charitable donations are paid by GreaterGood.org to benefiting organizations as a grant. Most of the “workers” on the Underground Railroad were white abolitionists. Log cabin quilt in red, green, and black wool, circa 1850. Whether or not it's completely valid, I have no idea, but it makes sense with the amount of research we did. Owned and operated by Great Life Publishing, a GreaterGood company. Find Out What Makes Stradivarius Instruments So Unique, The Painstaking Process of Making a Persian Rug. A class debrief is completed through a series of questions. Slave quilts fact or fiction? [3] Williams stated that the quilts had ten squares, each with a message about how to successfully escape. If you want to learn the deeper meaning of symbols, then you need to show worthiness of knowing these deeper meanings by not telling anyone," she said. ©2021 Great Life Publishing and GreaterGood. Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. Presenters Bridgett, Edith, Rosetta, Gayle, and Patricia; 2 Questions to think about? It cannot be proven through recorded historical documents or defendable oral history. “The Underground Railroad has several stations in the [Welsh] Mountains, and secrecy was not just a buzzword, as breaking the code of silence could mean death. What do the symbols mean? The Underground Railroad was the network of abolitionists – both black and white – who helped enslaved persons escape via a network of safe houses and shelters. Now most experts question whether this actually happened. Fact, fiction, folklore, or a bit of all three: Did runaway slaves seek clues in the patterns of handmade quilts, strategically placed by members of the Underground Railroad? It is a concept that seemed to descend on the quilt world in the late 1990s, following the publication of, "Hidden in Plain View" (HIPV), written by two professors: J. Tobin and R. Dobard, PhD. How were quilts used during the Underground Railroad? Quilts have always been a source of communication. Most certainly not. Underground Railroad quilt code: fact or fiction. Books that emphasize quilt use. ", This page was last edited on 4 January 2021, at 16:43. 12 Interesting Facts About The Underground Railroad | APECSEC.org What are the origins of quilting? John Reddick, who worked on the Douglass sculpture project for Central Park, states that it is paradoxical that historians require written evidence of slaves who were not allowed to read and write. Your team has mixed feelings about this topic. The Underground Railroad was active until the Civil War ended, meaning there were decades to develop subtle codes and symbols which might have been helpful. "There’s a tradition in Africa where coding things is controlled by secret societies. no wonder he met an older gal with a 30-06. Via/ Wiki Commons. Fact or Fiction: Were Quilts Used As Secret Codes for Slaves on … In Colson Whitehead’s Latest, the Underground Railroad Is More … Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad in 2000 from authors Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. [4] Quilt historians Kris Driessen, Barbara Brackman, and Kimberly Wulfert do not believe the theory that quilts were used to communicate messages about the Underground Railroad. Wyse Talk with Jan Doyle; Quilts In The Underground Railroad: Fact or Fiction. The symbols used in quilt making often have a complicated or unknown history. [4], "Unravelling the Myth of Quilts and the Underground Railroad", "In Douglass Tribute, Slave Folklore and Fact Collide", "Were Quilts Used as Underground Railroad Maps? "[10], Even so, there are museums, schools, and others who believe the story to be true. Visit the websites below to read about the debate about the quilts. Unravelling the Myth of Quilts and the Underground Railroad - TIME [4] The book claims that there was a quilt code that conveyed messages in counted knots and quilt block shapes, colors and names. It started with a monkey wrench, that meant to gather up necessary supplies and tools, and ended with a star, which meant to head north. Quilts communicate. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. See more ideas about underground railroad, underground, harriet tubman. Were secret codes, camouflaged into slave-made quilts, used in the Underground Railroad? One idea is that the seamstress of a plantation would train the other slaves as to what the quilt symbols meant and then hang out the ones that were relevant to upcoming journeys, like when a conductor was coming into the area. [5] In a 2007 Time magazine article, Tobin stated: "It's frustrating to be attacked and not allowed to celebrate this amazing oral story of one family's experience. [7][8][9], Controversy in the hypothesis became more intense in 2007 when plans for a sculpture of Frederick Douglass at a corner of Central Park called for a huge quilt in granite to be placed in the ground to symbolize the manner in which slaves were aided along the Underground Railroad. Underground Railroad Quilt Patterns Meanings - Quilt Pattern Were secret codes, camouflaged into slave-made quilts, used in the Underground Railroad? The log cabin quilt was said to have been an indication of a safe house, if there was a black square at the center. Whatever you believe, the quilts of the 19th century are some the finest ever made and the feats of those who traversed the Underground Railroad truly some of the most courageous this country has seen. | World Quilts: The American Story Most fugitive slaves who made it to the North found sanctuary along the way in secret rooms concealed in attics or cellars, and many escaped through tunnels. Have to also remember back in the days of the underground railroad very few slaves could read and therefore had to relay on different signals. This kind of logic undermines the assumption that quilts were used as code since so little of the clues makes sense when placed under scrutiny. But, would hanging a quilt out on the line been the most inconspicuous way to do achieve this? [7], Giles Wright, an Underground Railroad expert, asserts that the book is based upon folklore that is unsubstantiated by other sources. The folklore of certain quilts being used as symbols has been presumed true by many, with books Quilts of the Underground Railroad describes a controversial belief that quilts were used to communicate information to African slaves about how to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad. All rights reserved. [4][7][10][11] Civil War historian David W. Blight, said "At some point the real stories of fugitive slave escape, as well as the much larger story of those slaves who never could escape, must take over as a teaching priority. Other patterns that have been included in the quilt code are the wagon wheel, drunkard’s path, and tumbling blocks. Glencoe. "[3] Dobard said, "I would say there has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the code. Some believe the quilts to be a fact and some believe them to be fiction. Underground Railroad Quilts? It is said that abolitionists and free blacks along the route of the Underground Divide your team into two groups - one group of believers and the other of non-believers in the quilts. Hidden in Plain View, based on interviews with elderly African American quilter Ozella Williams, seems to tell the story of how symbols were used to direct escaping slaves. He said the house was marked as friendly. There were distinct routes along the Underground Railroad that slaves followed. Next, individual students determine which excerpts have the strongest evidence for The Underground Railroad : Myths of the Underground Railroad : … Slaves escaping to freedom via the Underground Railroad in the dark of night, their way mapped for them by quilts hanging on clotheslines or low-hanging branches–all the elements of a great saga are here: heroes, villains, dangerous journeys, secret knowledge, the dream of freedom. 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