Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quilting through History: Slavery and Freedom

My post earlier tonight focused on the role that quilting played in the lives of Pioneer women. Tonight, I'm focusing on another aspect of quilting in the history of the United States - Slavery and Freedom. Since both of the learning activities include making a quilt, perhaps you'll want to read both stories and then decide which would be the more appropriate activity for your child(ren) - if you're a teacher, option 2 might be better... if you're a parent, option 1 might work better! Either way, enjoy!

Hopkinson, Deborah.
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.
Alfred A. Knopf.
Guided Reading Level: S
Review copy borrowed from local library.

Little Clara is more fortunate than most slaves - at least, as fortunate as a slave child could possibly be. She's been given the opportunity to work inside the house, alongside Aunt Rachel to help sew for the upcoming wedding for the plantation owner's daughter. As she learns the stitches to sew, she also picks up on information in the house that allows her the opportunity to find a way to help other slaves. Using the scraps of fabric left over from her sewing projects, Clara sews a patchwork quilt that maps out the lay of the land, ultimately helping the plantation slaves escape North by means of the Underground Railroad... all they have to do is follow the fields, roads and other symbols on her Freedom Quilt.

This book is very informational and shows one way in which slaves used quilts to gain their freedom. Not only is the book full of quilting-related information, children will learn a great deal about the life of slaves as Clara works her way through the sewing of the quilt. This is highly recommended reading by me!

Learning/Reading Activity:
  • With your child(ren), create a "Freedom Quilt" of your own. Head out to your local dollar store and pick up a few packs of scrapbooking paper. Come up with a plan - where will you go to find freedom? (This could be as simple as going from the living room to the bedroom or barn... or as complex as heading from your house to the library). Whatever plan you come up with, work together to create the quilt using the various scrapbook papers. Be sure to include roads, fields, houses, etc., just as Clara did! Then, challenge other family members... will they be able to read the quilt to find freedom?
Stroud, Bettye.
The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom.
Candlewick Press.
Guided Reading Level: N
Review copy borrowed from local library.

In The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom, readers are introduced to Hannah, a young slave girl of ten, whose sister was sold off and whose mother passed away. Only Hannah and her father remain. However, Hannah's mother with always be with the pair, as when they choose to head north to Canada in search of freedom, they take along Mother's "Patchwork Path" quilt, using the symbols depicted to assist them in their travels along the Underground Railroad. Similar to Clara in Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, here, another slave is sharing a different way in which quilts assisted them in finding freedom. Rather than being almost a physical map of the land as Clara's was, Hannah's quilt used symbols to tell the story of how to find her way north.

While the stories are very different in the way in which quilts were used, they are ultimately sharing the same goal - leading slaves to freedom! This was my first time reading this book, but it is truly wonderfully written and should be included, not only in a quilt-themed unit, but also in a unit focusing on slavery.

Learning/Reading Activity:
  • Create your a classroom "Patchwork Path" quilt that features symbols that are important to your life. Instructions can be found here.

If you're interested in finding out more information about any of the books reviewed or if you'd like to purchase the books, click the cover image for a link to I am an Amazon Affiliate, so any purchases you make after clicking these images will result in my receiving a small percentage of the sale price!


style='clear: both;' Playing by the book said...

Hi Katie!
I've just discovered you via the kidlitosphere list of bloggers - and it was clearly serendipity at work, as this week I've a post on picture books with a sewing or quilting theme. I've added a link to your posts here in my comments: