Secret Quilt Code. “We had a whole battery of people who were doing those interviews in Michigan, both black and white, and no one heard that story.”. These Americans migrated to the Midwest from the rural South saying Godspeed! National Geographic and the Kennedy Center developed elementary school curricula that referenced the codes. Simply put, she has faith. Go onto Pinterest and enter in the search bar “Underground Railroad Activities Kids” and I guarantee in the first 10 pins that pop up, at least 3 will be about Freedom Quilts or Quilt Codes. “Almost every February, stories appear in papers across the country,” MacDowell explains, referencing African American History Month. Filter 273 Offers. Either way, to follow this route would have taken much longer and been much less direct, leading to an increased chance of being caught. They jumped to conclusions without documentation.”. The only paper published in a refereed scientific journal that claims to find evidence for the reality of the Bible Codes is the paper Equidistant Letter Sequences in the Book of Genesis, by Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg (WRR), Statistical Science, Vol. They couldn't read nor write. Drunkard’s Path = Zig-zag as you go along in case you are being stalked by hounds, Double Wedding Ring =Now it is safe to remove your chains and shackles. 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. “There will always be people who believe,” she concedes. In addition to studying the visual messages that are within crop circles, there is a body of sound and light vibration research that has emerged around the patterns. 274 likes. 10% Off Your Next Order Over $30. The Underground Railroad operated throughout the South. Each pattern has specific meanings. The Quilt Codex. However, quilting, a long-treasured art, has many myths associated with it. 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. A partial list of some of the most common myths about the Underground Railroad would include the following: 1. A video database of quilt blocks! There is not one single scrap of objective evidence for the so-called "quilt code." The wide woolen stitching lines were roads.” to segregation laws and seeking industry jobs during what is known as the Great Northern Migration, or the Black Migration. 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. Code • Home Sew. 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. Quilting is for the Elderly. Join our mailing list and help us with a tax-deductible donation today. We know them today as the designs that make antique quilts so special and unique. Regardless of the disputed history, it has been twenty years now that Tindall and other quilters have been making coded quilts: glimmering, spiritually charged, stop-you-in-your-tracks, hanging textiles based in deeply believed and debated historical events. All rights reserved. Some do, and maybe it did, but others question the authenticity of such events. 2. Perhaps the code, true or not, is a vehicle for African Americans to explore the trauma they inherited—and the hope. According to legend, a safe house along the Underground Railroad was often indicated by a quilt hanging from a clothesline or windowsill. It is the kind of quilting that will enhance and embrace the pieced composition. 1893 painting of what the Underground Railroad might have looked like. Soon the story has lifeblood independent of its origins, and there’s no stopping it. 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. She encountered an old quilt that “was stitched like it had been sewn with a crowbar.”, “It was a map, of course! I used to be the web master for my church, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Stanislaus County in Modesto, California. Nimble fingers working in secret, armed with needle and thread, engaging with a visual language, doing their part for freedom. Twining-Baird specializes in kente cloth quilts made on the Sea Island chain off the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, but she maintains a firm stance on quilt codes. Fact or Fiction: Were Quilts Used As Secret Codes for Slaves on the Underground Railroad? 8 uses today. Finally enslaved peoples were free to roam without running. 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. There are a wide-selection of patterns available for quilters of all ages. 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. 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 symbols used in quilt making often have a complicated or unknown history. She felt a kind of kinship. “Flying geese are blue; the sky is blue, red and black,” she responded. In February 2007 we invited a woman to talk to us about Quilt Codes and the Underground Railroad. Myth: The Underground Railroad used a series of quilt codes to direct freedom seekers. Underground Quilt Codes Debunked! “If you’re wondering about our irritation, I think it’s more frustrating that the codes keep getting presented as fact.”. She encountered an old quilt that “was stitched like it had been sewn with a crowbar.” “It was a map, of course! Literally, if anyone found out they could lose their lives.”. “I’m thankful I am able to create something of comfort.”. Whether or not you believe Tindall’s interpretation, you might agree her belief provides poetic justifications for belief versus fact. Nowadays, some African American women make coded quilts for their daughters and granddaughters, and that will keep happening. To define “fact” is no easy undertaking. Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad in 2000 from authors Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard. The log cabin quilt was said to have been an indication of a safe house, if there was a black square at the center. 4.5 out of 5 Based on the opinion of 45 people. That’s according to Marsha MacDowell, a quilt scholar and director of the Quilt Index, a massive online catalog of more than 90,000 quilts. 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. No one said anything about a code. “The danger is that you start questioning people’s belief systems and how they get their information.”, “I’ve found some people have a hard time thinking or believing anything they cannot see or touch,” Tindall says. Her mother taught her (as did her grandmother teach her mother) that you always hold a needle pointing in the direction of the North as you quilt it, because that is where opportunities are. The Chilbolton crop circle discovered in 2001, contains binary code of the numbers zero to ten, atomic numbers that make up human DNA, a human face, the solar system, and other human-related symbols. 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. The wide woolen stitching lines were roads.”. 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. 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. 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 orange is life, or light,” she explains, pointing at the glowing horizon line on her quilt, The Johnson House. 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