It’s that time of the year. Kids are crazy excited because it’s sunny outside, the days are long and there is water to play in. Moms are happy to have outdoor playtime, maybe a little anxious at the long days ahead, but happy to relax the schedule a bit.
The school year is winding down for my son in second grade, and I wanted to share with you a display in the hallway outside his classroom that I really enjoyed.
I think his favorite subject is social studies (other than Phys. Ed.) and this year they were really focused on state history, including the Civil War. One of the subjects studied was the Underground Railroad.
I was really excited that they were taught about the role of quilts in aiding the slaves’ quest for freedom during the American Civil war. For the displays pictured, each child created their own quilt block with paper. My son explained to me that the blocks depicted in the quilts were used to communicate with the slaves searching for freedom.
Safe houses might display a quilt in front of the home to indicate the slave was would be protected there. Symbols on the quilts might tell them what to expect on their journey. My son’s block, the boat (above bottom) might indicate a river crossing.
I also read an account that indicated that the slaves who were planning an escape used quilts to tell each other what they needed to do, or what stage of the plan they needed to prepare for. Historical accounts indicate that nobody knows for certain what the quilts represented or how they were used specifically. These are just guesses.
It makes me really happy to think about how an art form that I love so much has such important history….and that second graders are learning about it!
Think about all the eras in quilting, from Victorian Crazy Quilts, the Underground Railroad, Gee’s Bend, 1930’s, and now the enormous variety we see in Modern Quilting.
I feel lucky as a quilter to have access to such gloriously beautiful fabrics and useful tools, but having these things also makes me recognize how miraculous the old-time quilts are.