African American Quilts and Their History

Although the quilt fabrics and patterns used were those of upper class whites, some African American household slaves became highly skilled in creating these quilts.


During the 1920s more and more African Americans began to move into the northern cities. One contributing factor was the boll weevil infestation that destroyed many farms in the south. Also industrialization created new opportunities for employment in the north. Most women found they had little time to quilt after a long day at their factory jobs.

her collection of African and African-American quilts.

The History of The American Quilt: Part One - Pattern …

Overall we find that African American quilters today are eclectic in their approach including the making of quilts based on African textiles to others in the tradition of story quilts. Their quilts range from work with a strong African influence to traditional quilting. While some African Americans are producing stunning art quilts many are making quilts using the same new and old patterns that quilters in general enjoy.

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Though the physical evidence of surviving quilts is gone the fact that plantation slaves made pipes with designs matching African pottery art indicates women might have used African textile designs in their quilts. To learn more about these pipes go to the "Black History by the Shovel Full" webpage listed below.

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Story quilts, such as two examples of biblical story quilts made by Harriet Powers, lead us to wonder if many other such quilts were made by African American women. As Harriet Powers was born a slave in 1837, we might assume this art dates back some time. We do know this technique of creating a story with appliqué has been handed down through the generations and these folk quilts are still made by African American women today.

Needlework & Quilt History - Making Reproduction Quilts

Still it's hard to imagine that heritage hasn't had an impact on African American quilts. Surely their common experiences affected the taste of early African American quilters and there is no doubt that black women today are making striking quilts that reflect African culture. African American quilt historian, Cuesta Benberry, points out, 3

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Above all, the Guild is committed to preserving the tradition of African American quilting by passing it from generation to generation.

We celebrate the legacy of African American quilting by sharing our quilting experiences, educating others through quilt demonstrations and workshops.

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We have a wide variety of talents in African-American, traditional and modern quilting techniques and we like to share these skills through numerous activities, including monthly meetings, workshops, challenges, charity projects, and a biennial quilt show.

Through our website, we invite you to experience the commitment and enthusiasm of our members for the preservation of the African American quilt making tradition.