Underground Railroad Quilts? Former slave photographed in the 1930s, name unknown. [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. We know them today as the designs that make antique quilts so special and unique. And sometimes that story has far reaching influence. 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. Fact or Fiction: Were Quilts Used As Secret Codes for Slaves on … "There’s a tradition in Africa where coding things is controlled by secret societies. "[4] He called the book "informed conjecture, as opposed to a well-documented book with a "wealth of evidence". [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. The theory that quilts and songs were used to communicate information about the Underground Railroad, though is disputed among historians. Via/ Wiki Commons. The log cabin quilt was said to have been an indication of a safe house, if there was a black square at the center. The "Quilt Code" A hot topic in Black History is the story of quilts and 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. The Underground Railroad operated throughout the South. [3] Williams stated that the quilts had ten squares, each with a message about how to successfully escape. To many of us, the use of quilts as messengers on the Underground Railroad (UGRR) is a myth. Presenters Bridgett, Edith, Rosetta, Gayle, and Patricia; 2 Questions to think about? A class debrief is completed through a series of questions. 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. Owned and operated by Great Life Publishing, a GreaterGood company. 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. 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. Two historians say African American slaves may have used a quilt code to navigate the Underground Railroad. 1893 painting of what the Underground Railroad might have looked like. [4] The book claims that there was a quilt code that conveyed messages in counted knots and quilt block shapes, colors and names. 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. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary. Glencoe. For every phrase write fact or fiction on your paper. Were secret codes, camouflaged into slave-made quilts, used in the Underground Railroad? Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad in 2000 from authors Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. Whether or not it's completely valid, I have no idea, but it makes sense with the amount of research we did. Wahlman wrote the foreword for Hidden in Plain View. Your team has mixed feelings about this topic. They can say volumes. Quilts communicate. It has been disputed by a number of historians. He says that most of the people who successfully escaped slavery were "enterprising and well informed. All charitable donations are paid by GreaterGood.org to benefiting organizations as a grant. “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. Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. See more ideas about underground railroad, underground, harriet tubman. All rights reserved. In the book Jackie and I set out to say it was a set of directives. In Colson Whitehead’s Latest, the Underground Railroad Is More … 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. Underground Railroad quilt code: fact or fiction. How were quilts used during the Underground Railroad? 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. "[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". 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. Via/ Wiki Commons. 2. But, there is little hard evidence that these quilt symbols were used in this way. 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. 12 Interesting Facts About The Underground Railroad | APECSEC.org 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? Unravelling the Myth of Quilts and the Underground Railroad - TIME There were distinct routes along the Underground Railroad that slaves followed. The folklore of certain quilts being used as symbols has been presumed true by many, with books Fact or Fiction: Were Quilts Used As Secret Codes for Slaves on the Underground Railroad? [4] Noted historians did not believe that the hypothesis was true and saw no connection between Douglass and this belief. Presented by quilter, Micki Angyal. It was a beginning, not an end-all, to stir people to think and share those stories. 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. 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 symbols used in quilt making often have a complicated or unknown history. Wyse Talk with Jan Doyle; Quilts In The Underground Railroad: Fact or Fiction. – 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. Now most experts question whether this actually happened. It is said that abolitionists and free blacks along the route of the Underground It cannot be proven through recorded historical documents or defendable oral history. A partial list of some of the most common myths about the Underground Railroad would include the following: 1. [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. ©2021 Great Life Publishing and GreaterGood. Fact or Fiction? [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. What do the symbols mean? The justice meted out in the Mountains was sure and swift, making it different from that in the surrounding community. Well-intentioned white abolitionists, many of whom were Quakers, ran it. 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. [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. Slave quilts fact or fiction? It’s no big surprise that the Quilt Code story caught on. 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. Jul 18, 2017 - Explore Cynthia Mocklar's board "Underground Railroad Quilts" on Pinterest. 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. 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. He said the house was marked as friendly. Fact Sheet . Books that emphasize quilt use. I'm still going to believe it to be non-fiction. Quilts and codes: Folklore or fact, quilted messages of the … But, would hanging a quilt out on the line been the most inconspicuous way to do achieve this? [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. 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. Title: Quilts; Underground Railroad 1 Quilts Underground Railroad. Even so, escaping slavery was generally an act of "complex, sophisticated and covert systems of planning". Were secret codes, camouflaged into slave-made quilts, used in the Underground Railroad? See more ideas about underground railroad quilts, underground railroad, quilts. Underground Railroad Quilt Patterns Meanings - Quilt Pattern Via/ Library of Congress. 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. 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. In anticipation of Colson Whitehead’s visit to campus, three Lesley professors held a symposium in Washburn Lounge to discuss 4. Quilts have always been a source of communication. no wonder he met an older gal with a 30-06. LOL! Some of the folklore has some inexplicable discrepancies like the bears paw pattern. 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. 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. Other patterns that have been included in the quilt code are the wagon wheel, drunkard’s path, and tumbling blocks. "[10], Even so, there are museums, schools, and others who believe the story to be true. June 8, 2020 Mary Simpson. [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. Books featuring the Underground Railroad - The Novel Tourist The first “stops” along the Underground Railroad were found in the South. Some believe the quilts to be a fact and some believe them to be fiction. 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. Divide your team into two groups - one group of believers and the other of non-believers in the quilts. | World Quilts: The American Story 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. Visit the websites below to read about the debate about the quilts. What are the origins of quilting? Underground Railroad Code: fact or fiction? "[3] Dobard said, "I would say there has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the code. Americans eager to discuss slavery are fascinated by tales of quilts used as signals in the dangerous journey to freedom. [7], Giles Wright, an Underground Railroad expert, asserts that the book is based upon folklore that is unsubstantiated by other sources. Every quilt tells a story. Either way, to follow this route would have taken much longer and been much less direct, leading to an increased chance of being caught. Find Out What Makes Stradivarius Instruments So Unique, The Painstaking Process of Making a Persian Rug. He also stated there was no mark stating he had to knock. Stan Grizzle, our 2019 Black History Monthpresenter attended and he recalls his grandmother telling stories about the quilts … Slaves created so-called “freedo… After the U.S. Congress passed the Compromise of 1850, the law forced free northern states to return escaped slaves. Next, individual students determine which excerpts have the strongest evidence for 7:00 p.m. ", This page was last edited on 4 January 2021, at 16:43. The Archives, 178 McKellar Street. Oct 1, 2019 - Explore Cheryl Christmas's board "Underground Railroad", followed by 534 people on Pinterest. 3. Most of the “workers” on the Underground Railroad were white abolitionists. 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], "Unravelling the Myth of Quilts and the Underground Railroad", "In Douglass Tribute, Slave Folklore and Fact Collide", "Were Quilts Used as Underground Railroad Maps? Various blocks in the quilts gave the slaves clues as to where they had to go. 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. The Underground Railroad : Myths of the Underground Railroad : … 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. Log cabin quilt in red, green, and black wool, circa 1850. Most certainly not. 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