Edna Turner came to StoryCorps Griot through a partnership with the Birmingham African American Genealogy Study Group. She recalled how attending a workshop at Clark University in Atlanta sparked her interest in the role quilting played during slavery. As Ms. Turner explained, because slaves were kept from congregating, they had to find alternate methods to communicate. One tool they employed was code. The patterns, symbols, and even knots woven into quilts were used to guide people through the Underground Railroad. Ms. Turner described ten patterns depicted in her “Freedom Quilt” (pictured above), a sample quilt she’s been taking to middle schools, universities, and other groups for seven years.
Edna Turner says she shares her knowledge because, “We didn’t get this information when I was growing up. If I knew that we built the pyramid, that we did the first brain surgery, that the world once went to Timbuktu to be educated, then I would believe that Harriet Tubman got 300 people to Canada. But, I have to know that we are a people who were capable of this before. So, I try to share that with my students. I don’t want them to live in darkness as I have, and imagine that one group is less endowed than another.”
Many thanks to Ms. Martin, Ms. Turner, and all the other members of the Genealogy Study Group who came and interviewed at the StoryCorps Griot booth.