I wrote these posts about Underground Railroad Quilts in honor of Black History Month 2021. It was a simple, clever plan to outsmart their white masters right under their noses. They had to use symbols because most of the people escaping were illiterate. They couldn’t read, not because they were stupid. They just hadn’t had the opportunity to learn to read. What they lacked in reading ability, they made up for in cleverness and cunning.
They took advantage of the names of these quilt blocks that some of the women had probably made for their owners. It is doubtful they knew the actual names of the blocks, but they learned the meanings they needed. As it turned out, those blocks had those names long before they were used for the Underground Railroad.
As they went about their duties of airing out the quilts, they also notified fellow slaves of information they needed along the way. No one realized that the Wagon Wheel quilt was being aired out around the time some slaves were disappearing. I guess it never happened all at one place so suspicion was not high. It was interesting learning about this both from the original quilt museum in Atlanta (I can’t seem to find it) and other sources as I prepared this series.
- BLACK HISTORY: QUILTS ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD–MONKEY WRENCH, WAGON WHEEL
- BLACK HISTORY: QUILTS ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD–BEAR’S PAW, DRUNKARD’S PATH
- BLACK HISTORY: QUILTS ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD–NORTH STAR, FLYING GEESE
- BLACK HISTORY: QUILTS ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD–LOG CABIN, BOW TIE