You’ll usually find us joking about the craft project suggestions in the pages of Better Homes & Gardens, but today is Juneteenth and we want to take time to honor crafting as an art form and an instrument for social justice. We’re showing some Love for quilting and Anti-Slavery Quilts.
There are many theories about secret codes and meanings sown into quilts to guide slaves along the Underground Railroad. Since much of the history of quilting relies on oral history and storytelling, it is difficult to verify if these “quilt codes” really existed.
We do know that as Abolitionism grew it required funds to support the movement. Many Abolitionists were women and many women engaged in the craft of quilting. Selling Anti-slavery Quilts was one way Abolitionists raised funds for social justice.
In the Northeast, Anti-slavery Quilts were often sold at Anti-Slavery Fairs. These events were organized to promote ending slavery to the larger community and raise funds for the movement.
It was at one such Massachusetts fair in 1836 that organizers sold an Anti-Slavery Quilt, the earliest known fundraising quilt. The 8-pointed star crib quilt, sometimes attributed to author and activist Lydia Maria Child included a poem by Quaker poet Elizabeth Margaret Chandler in its center block that included a reminder to think of the slave mother, whose child “was torn from her.”
Hundreds of years later, there is still much Anti-Racist work left to do to achieve meaningful racial justice and equality. Perhaps some of that work can be accomplished through creativity, artistry, and yes, even crafts.