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Column #145

“And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations”

Mammy's Golden Legacy (2012) by Laura R. Gadson. Photo courtesy of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Cincinnati Museum Center.

In 1619, a Dutch ship sailed into port at Jamestown, Virginia.

“The ship's cargo hold was empty except for twenty or so Africans whom the captain and his crew had recently robbed from a Spanish ship. The captain exchanged the Africans for food, then set sail. It's not clear if the Africans were considered slaves or indentured servants. (An indentured servant would be required to work a set amount of time, then granted freedom.)…Whatever the status of these first Africans to arrive at Jamestown, it is clear that by 1640, at least one African had been declared a slave….The terrible transformation to racial slavery was underway.” (http://www.pbs.org)

This incident, three-dimensionally rendered in fabric by Houston artist, Carolyn Crump, is the first in the chronologically-ordered quilt exhibit of African-American history entitled, And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations, on tour in the United States for the next few years.

Inspired by the upcoming 400th anniversary of that landing and its implications, quilt artist, author and historian Carolyn L. Mazloomi put together a select group of 69 artists to depict historic events marking the African-American experience in the United States.

Although the group produced a total of 97 quilts—all of which are documented in a book—the traveling exhibition contains 69 quilts.

Stunning in their range, scope and artistry, the quilts do not shy away from illustrating the legacy of slavery’s oppression and racism (think John Brown all the way up to Trayvon Martin); but they also proudly celebrate the many achievements and historic firsts achieved by African-Americans despite that legacy.

Everything from their cultural influences in literature, film, sports, and music to the election of the first black president are given stunning visual treatment.

Buffalo soldiers (both male and even a female); the first African-American female to earn an aviation license; the first African-American teacher; the Supreme Court’s landmark decision to strike down the ban against interracial marriage; America’s first self-made female millionaire; the inventor of the traffic light; the first African-American trade union—the remarkable catalogue goes on and on.

Each quilt is a history lesson in itself and demands of the viewer far more than a cursory glance. These are powerful stories, powerfully told.

Curated by Carolyn Mazloomi, director of the Women of Color Quilter’s Network (WCQN), And Still We Rise was organized by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and Cincinnati Museum Center. Its current touring schedule includes the following itinerary:

1/16/2016-4/24/2016       Bruce Museum (Greenwich, CT)
9/24/2016-1/01/2017        Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (Winchester, VA) 
1/20/2017-6/04/2017        Kalamazoo Valley Museum (Kalamazoo, MI)

If you are lucky enough to be near one of the tour locations, go see this exhibit. You will be amazed and edified.


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Archived blogs:

Column 144: Texas Community Marks Juneteenth Sesquicentennial with History Quilts
Column 143: Maya Embroidered Patchwork
Column 142: Huipil Patchwork Quilts
Column 141: Tom Korn’s Military Medal Quilts
Column 140: The Return of Double Knits!
Column 139: Passage Quilts
Column 138: Home of the Brave Quilts
Column 137: The Story of Fabric Yo-Yos
Column 136: Christmas in July
Column 135: Trifles
Column 134: Deaf Initiatives—Communicating Through Quilts
Column 133: My Betty Boop Quilt
Column 132: Maura Grace Ambrose
Column 131: All You Need Is Love
Column 130: Chicken Linens
Column 129: The Quilted Chuppah
Column 128: Patchwork Around the World: Yoruba Dance Costumes
Column 127: The Bowers Co-Op Quilts
Column 126: Fon Appliqué and Haitian Voodoo Flags
Column 125: The Quilt Garden at The North Carolina Arboretum
Column 124: Harriet Powers and Handful’s Mauma
Column 123: Quilters de Mexico
Column 122: An Appliquéd Surprise
Column 121: Matisse’s Fabric Stash
Column 120: Soogan—The Cowboy’s Quilt
Column 119: The Ron Swanson Quilt
Column 118: HClarkdale, Georgia—A Thread of History
Column 117: How WWI Changed the Color of Quilts in the United States
Column 116: Wagga—The Bushman’s Quilt
Column 115: All in the Family
Column 114: The Alabama State Quilt
Column 113: Balloon Quilts of Albuquerque
Column 112: The Family That Quilts Together, Stays Together
Column 111: Two Rivers, Three Sisters
Column 110: Quilters Helping Quilters
Column 109: Community Cookbooks and Fundraiser Quilts—Parallel Histories
Column 108: Quilting to Freedom
Column 107: National Quilting Day
Column 106: The Airing of the Quilts
Column 105: A Call for a National Juneteenth Commemorative Quilt
Column 104: Dominoes
Column 103: 1936 Texas Centennial Bluebonnet Quilt
Column 102: Helen Blackstone, A Texas Quilter
Column 101: Montana CattleWomen Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 100: 100th Suzy's Fancy Column!
Column 99: Montana Stockgrowers Anniversary Brand Quilt
Column 98: The Tobacco Sack Connection
Column 97: Meet the Sisters Who Are State Fair Quilting Queens
Column 96: The connection between fairs and quilts.
Column 95: Her Mother Pieced Quilts
Column 94: Rebecca Barker’s Quiltscapes
Column 93: The Thread and Thimble Club Mystery

See other archived columns here

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