Literacy & Art: The Story behind the Quilt
Your feedback is important to us!
After viewing our curriculum units, please take a few minutes to help us understand how the units, which were created by public school teachers, may be useful to others.
Harriet Powers began her masterpiece quilt at the age of forty-nine. Though she had sewn many other quilts in her lifetime this quilt was to be a diary of her spiritual life. In it she would combine local folktales and Biblical truths to produce a fifteen-squared quilt.
Lesson Plan #2
• To describe the Bible Quilt using parts of speech
• To speculate what might be happening in the quilt
(chart available in print form)
• Picture of Mrs. Harriet Power's Bible Quilt
• Copy of worksheet below
• Divide the class into small groups of 4 or 5 students
• Provide each group with a picture of Harriet's quilt
• Ask the children to choose a square from quilt to analyze.
• Have the group complete the worksheet above and be prepared to share their answers with the class.
Harriet was born enslaved on October 29, 1837 in Clarke County, Georgia. She never learned to read or write. Most young slave girls were taught to sew at an early age by their mother or the wife of the plantation owner.
Social events for slaves often revolved around the quilting bees. During the long, cold winter slave women would gather together to work on a quilt. If allowed they'd travel from one plantation to the other for they understood the old cliche that many hands make light work. It was not unusual for the women to complete two or three quilts in a night.
Quilts were usually made from large squares of fabric with detailed pieces sewed into intricate patterns. The patterns used varied. To the slave women working on the quilt, it was more than a piece of cloth. Some referred to the finished projects as music, others as poetry. Mrs. Powers would later refer to her Bible Quilt as one of her children.
The men were allowed to join only after the quilting was done. Food and dancing followed. Ingenious in their ability to adapt, music was often provided using cow bones for drums, animal hide stretched over a box, or broom sticks with fiddle strings to produce an entire band. It may have been at one of these quilting feasts that Harriet met her future husband, Armstead Powers.