Monday, May 27, 2024
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Telling our stories: the longstanding tradition of quilting – Afro American Newspaper

AFRO American Newspapers
The Black Media Authority
By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
tmcqueen@afro.com
Throughout history, African Americans have been forcefully silenced from their natural inclination to express their culture, needs and desires. Quilting was and continues to be a way for Black people, Black women especially, to memorialize moments that are important to Black culture or a specific Black family.
“Quilting goes back to the days of slavery,” said Karsonya Wise Whitehead, professor of communication and African and African American Studies at the Loyola University of Maryland. “The same way Black women would use braids as maps for runaway slaves, they’d use the quilt. It’d be an outline to help them make their way to freedom.”
Black women have used quilts for centuries to express themselves under heavy oppression, contributing to the American quilting style.
Quilting records the cultural and political past of America. The voices of Black women are stitched within their quilts, according to Floris Barnett Cash, author of “Kinship and Quilting: An Examination of an African-American Tradition.”
According to the African American Registry, a non-profit database resource of African American heritage, Black people would work in secret with a needle and thread, using embedded codes to contribute towards African-American freedom.
They used a bear paw to tell runaway slaves to follow an animal trail through the terrain to food and water and a log cabin as a sign to seek immediate shelter.
“Using quilting, song, or dance to express ourselves and connect as a community was a way of having a gaze of our own,” said Whitehead. “We’re able to define ourselves instead of letting White people do it for us.”
Black people continue to find creative ways to share their stories.
“We are in an exciting time, finding other ways to express ourselves,” said Whitehead. “We are the heart and soul of this nation and there is something beautiful on the other side of our pain.”
This Juneteenth the AFRO encourages all Black families to dig into their their history and find a way to tell their story.
Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.
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The AFRO knows what it’s like to endure challenging times. John H. Murphy, Sr., a former enslaved man founded the AFRO in 1892 with $200 from his wife, Martha Howard Murphy. Together they created a platform to offer images and stories of hope to advance their community. The AFRO provides readers with good news about the Black community not otherwise found.
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