Freedom Quilts Using quilts as maps on the underground railroad By Eileen Kirklen
Quilts have many uses. During slavery in the United States, they were sometimes used as maps.
Many slaves lived on plantations and worked in cotton fields. They heard stories of other slaves on other plantations.
Many slaves had to work hard. Some were separated from their families. They wanted freedom and some decided to run away.
They would share information they learned about where things were. They knew that if you could find your way north you would be free.
The north star led the way north for many slaves. They would look for the big dipper which they called a drinking gourd because of its shape.
The slaves that worked in the plantation house heard stories of different places from slaves that would visit.
A slave that worked as a seamstress would listen carefully and stitch the shapes of roads, rivers, houses, woods and trails into a colorful quilt.
When a slave was ready to run, they would use the quilt as a map to take them toward freedom on the underground railroad.
The underground railroad was a group of people that secretly helped slaves to escape and find their way up north.
Without freedom quilts to help guide the way north, many slaves may not have been able to escape to freedom.
Slaves used symbols and pictures like those below to make freedom quilts that were used as maps.
What symbols or pictures could you put on a freedom quilt? Symbols Pictures
We read the story “Sweet Claraand the Freedom Quilt” and “African American Quilting”. Pretend you are a slave and want to escape to freedom. Design a freedom quilt that will take you up north to freedom.Be sure to include symbols or pictures that another person could follow to find their way up north.