With the resurgence of interest in the American Civil War during its sesquicentennial years, it is not surprising that the UGRR Quilt concept would be popular with a variety of people. This can be challenged by reminding ourselves that mid-19th century quilts did last; we do have oral and written documentation from freed slaves, Abolitionists and UGRR participants.
Nowhere was there any mention of codes in quilts; although there is evidence of other types of codes and cyphers used for the Underground Railroad. Briefly, we can challenge the quilt code myth just by using some logic and common sense.
As contemporary quilters and fabric artists, we can and do put meaning into our quilted projects.
However, what you perceive may not be what I have intended or meant.
Teachers had found a way to present the difficult subject of slavery to elementary age students and have hands-on activities to reinforce the lesson. Retrieved February 22, 2015, from The Quilt Index, Browse by Category: Patterns.
Quilt shop owners had found a way to enhance their marketing with classes, fabrics and quilt kits. Quilt blocks do have meanings…just look at their names. After all, those were hard times, maybe the quilts didn’t last or maybe people didn’t want to talk.
Recently, there has been a resurrection of the story that slaves were able to use coded messages in quilts to aid in their travels on the Underground Railroad. She is a member of the 69th NYSV Historical Association, the Civilians of the United States Volunteers (USV), the Blue Gray Civilians, the Atlantic Guard Soldiers’ Aid Society (AGSAS) and the Society for Women and the Civil War (SWCW). This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission. (No, there weren’t…I live there.) Myth has become accepted as Fact. How many of us have cringed while watching a movie and seen deep décolletage in a day gown or “heard” that red was only worn by “ladies of the night? ” When writing about the UGRR quilt code myth, Leigh Fellner calls this “Fakelore”. (Fellner) Yes, there are many quilts that do have a purpose and a meaning other than warmth or display of needlework. (Hereafter known as UGRR.) Folks, don’t you believe it. Look for her on Facebook at Sally Ryan, and on Linked In as Sara/Sally (Aurand) Ryan or contact her by email at [email protected] This is one of those myths about the American Civil War that just won’t go away. I believe that it is not appropriate for anyone to put their own interpretation on another’s work and call it fact -or history.