HIDDEN IN PLAIN VIEW

A SECRET STORY OF QUILTS AND THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD

Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D.

Forewords by Cuesta Benberry, Floyd Coleman, Ph.D., and Maude Southwell Wahlman, Ph.D.

A Doubleday Hardcover (ISBN 0-385-49137-9)

US $27.50 / $39.95 CAN


"There are five square knots on the quilt every two inches apart. They escaped on the fifth knot on the tenth pattern and went to Ontario, Canada. The monkey wrench turns the wagon wheel toward Canada on a bear's paw trail to the crossroads ..."

AND so begins the fascinating story that was passed down from generation to generation in the family of Ozella McDaniel Williams. But what appears to be a simple story that was handed down from grandmother to mother to daughter is actually much, much more than that. In fact, it is a coded message steeped in African textile traditions that provides a link between slave-made quilts and the Underground Railroad.

In I993, author Jacqueline Tobin visited the Old Market Building in the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina, where local craftspeople sell their wares. Amid piles of beautiful handmade quilts, Tobin met African American quilter Ozella Williams and the two struck up a conversation. With the admonition to "write this down:' Williams began to tell a fascinating story that had been handed down from her mother and grandmother before her. As Tobin sat in rapt attention, Williams began to describe how slaves made coded quilts and then used them to navigate their escape on the Underground Railroad. But just as quickly as she started, Williams stopped, informing Tobin that she would learn the rest when she was "ready." During the three years it took for Williams's narrative to unfold--and as the friendship and trust between the two women grew --Tobin enlisted Raymond Dobard, Ph.D., an art history professor and well-known African American quilter, to help provide the historical context behind what Williams was describing.

Now, based on Williams's story and their own research, Tobin and Dobard, in what they call "Ozella's Underground Railroad Quilt Code," offer proof that some slaves were involved in a sophisticated network that melded African textile traditions with American quilt practices and created a potent result: African American quilts with patterns that conveyed messages that were, in fact, essential tools for escape along the Underground Railroad.


FROM THE FOREWORDS

"Tobin and Dobard have taken quilt scholarship to another level. They have revealed that quilts are at once sources of pleasure, information, and meaning and are central to understanding the history of people of African ancestry in North America."

--- FLOYD COLEMAN, PH.D.


"Jacqueline Tobin is to be applauded for being in the right place at the right time, and having enough faith to go back again and again to listen to the story of one family's effort to encode knowledge in their quilt tops. And one salutes her partnership with Raymond dobard, whose knowledge of quilting technology is so outstanding. their persistence...is vital to our understanding of African American culture and its myriad contributions to American life."

--- MAUDE SOUTHWELL WAHLMAN, PH.D., AUTHOR OF SIGNS AND SYMBOLS: AFRICAN IMAGES IN AFRICAN AMERICAN QUILTS


"By engaging in a vast amount of research, authors Tobin and Dobard have established a significant linkage between the Underground Railroad effort, escaping slaves, and the American patchwork quilt."

--- CUESTA BENBERRY, AUTHOR OF ALWAYS THERE: THE AFRICAN AMERICAN PRESENCE IN AMERICAN QUILTS


JACQUELINE TOBIN is the author of The Tao of Women, and is also a teacher, collector, and writer of women's stories. She lives in Denver, Colorado. RAYMOND DOBARD, PH.D., is an art history professor at Howard University and a nationally known African American quilter. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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JACQUELINE TOBIN will be the keynote speaker at the FOURTH ANNUAL OHIO UNDERGROUND RAILROAD SUMMIT, sponsored by the Friends of Freedom Society to be held October 15 - 17, 1999 at the Holiday Inn - Dayton Mall, Miamisburg, Ohio.


Visit the Friends of Freedom Society homepage at: http://www.coax.net/people/lwf.focn.htm

Visit Doubleday on the Web at: http://www.bdd.com


Posted by:

Bennie J. McRae, Jr.
LWF COMMUNICATIONS
P.O. Box 26148
Trotwood, Ohio 45426-0148
E-mail: lwf@coax.net


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