We was taught there’s so many different ways to build a quilt. It’s like building a house. You can start with a bedroom over there, or a den over here, and just add on until you get what you want. Ought not two quilts ever be the same. You might use exactly the same material, but you would do it different. A lot of people make quilts just for your bed, for to keep you warm. But a quilt is more. It represents safekeeping, it represents beauty, and you could say it represents family history. 1
Mensie Lee Pettway (b. 1939), on learning her craft from her mother America Irby.
Juneteenth is an annual holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, and we are celebrating with a virtual exhibition of African American quilts. June 19 observes and renews the call for freedom, justice, and equality in the African American community. From the period of slavery through emancipation and up to current times, the activities and output of quilters have embodied strength, bound the community, and bestowed beauty and warmth, echoing the spirit of the holiday. An archival photograph of two generations of the Pettway family sewing together, 1937, and the mosaic mural Quilting Time, 1986, by Romare Bearden attest to the community building/family bonding attributes of the tradition.