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Heritage In Every Stitch Essay

962 words - 4 pages

How is African American heritage preserved through quilting?

Quilting has been around since the days before slavery. According to author Jamie Leigh in her article African American Quilting Traditions, she writes that in Africa, quilts needed to be made using clear bright colors and large shapes with the ability to be seen from far away. This ability helped tribes in times of war and travel by letting them know what or who is coming. Quilts also have a much deeper meaning woven into them. Author and art collector, Bill Arnett wrote "every great quilt, whether it be patchwork, applique, or strip quilt, is a potential Rosetta stone" (as cited in Hidden in Plain View, 1999, p. 8). In order to ...view middle of the document...

It could be telling an unspoken story, like what was happening in the lives of the ones who crafted it, or it could tell of an important event around the time of its conception. With many heirlooms, the story that goes with that item can be lost over generations. A quilt is a special kind of heirloom because it can keep that story alive with the patterns or cutout shapes that are used on it, and even if there is not a pattern to tell the story, understanding what materials the creator or creators used could keep the story going. Alice Walker stated in an interview published in Quilting A Legacy (1999) that she made a quilt before her daughter, now an adult, was born. She said "all of the pieces are from dresses that I actually wore. This yellow and black fabric I bought when I was in Uganda, and I had a beautiful dress made of it that I wore and wore and wore and eventually I couldn't wear it any more". In the next sentence she says that the reason she used the dresses was because around this time in history, African American people were becoming empowered and embracing where their people came from, she wanted to remember such an important time so she used items that told this story (Quilting a Legacy, p 70). The quilt she made would now hold a record of that importance.

The heritage in the quilts has been sewn into each piece and every stitch, and the preservation of that heritage would only be possible by using the quilts for their intended purpose. When family members from past generations make quilt to pass down, they want that item to be used everyday, that’s the best way to continue telling their story about that quilt and feel a bond...

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