Friday, September 23, 2011

Civil War Blocks - MAY

For May I chose the Underground Railroad Block. After my Triple Link Chain I decided I need to work on something a little less stressful. This was the perfect block.
Ever since the first slaves came to America they tried to escape. It was very dangerous to even attempt this. Many succeeded. Many failed. The terminology "underground railroad' came from those who organized this escape method. They spoke in code. People who helped slaves escape were often called "conductors". Safe places where escaping slaves could hide were often called "stations" (usually someone's home). The "station master" was a person in charge of the hiding place. People traveling were often called "passengers" and other times they were referred to as "baggage". Along the "railroad" certain signals and codes were give so the "passengers" knew where the "stations" were. Known signals and codes were hidden in music lyrics and stars in the sky (The North Star, The Drinking Gourd).

 There is speculation that quilts were frequently used as signals for slaves to know when it was safe to approach a "station". As great as that makes for a story, the truth is NO evidence has been found to support that quilts were used in the underground railroad. One must remember and understand that many former slaves could not read or write. They were assisted in writing their stories by white sympathizers. Many diaries were written, and they are certainly a valuable source of information about the Underground Railroad. A more reliable source however would be the thousands of interviews that were done by the Federal Writers Project in 1936-1938. These interviews documented many escape routes both on and off the railroad. There is not a single mention in these documents of any quilts being used for other than bedding

If you are interested in more about civil war quilts; a great blog to follow is Barbara Brackman's CIVIL WAR QUILTS. Barbara is a fabulous quilt historian.

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