The Freedom Quilt

Freedom Quilt
Josephine Martin (L) and Edna Turner (R).

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.


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One Response to “The Freedom Quilt”

To preserve the StoryCorps mission and experience for our readers and participants, comments are subject to the StoryCorps Terms of Service. Comments may be held for moderation or removed if deemed offensive or off-topic. Please do not resubmit your comment if you don't see it right away, it will be approved as soon as possible. Thank you.

  • Hi Edna,
    I just read your story on the freedom quilt, I saw it on the internet on a site about mobile and I decided that I wanted to make that quilt also for our family reunion which is by the way the Turner/Monore Family. this is our first time gathering together. we are trying deperately to find our family ancesters, if you have family that moved to northern Alabama (Lauderddale county), then we may have a connection. we are currently for relatives of John Robert Turner, he moved back
    to Mobile long time ago and no one heard from him since. Albert & Quene Turner
    was our great greatgrandparents. any connection please let me know. by the way you look just like my kinfolks.

    Comment from linda d stover on April 5, 2008 at 10:30 pm - Reply to this Comment

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