- Kathleen Thompson
Quilts and the act of quilt making have played important roles in the history of African America. Rife with symbolism, quilts represent comfort, resistance, self-expression, poverty, and a dozen other aspects of the lives of black Americans. Most quilters are not known outside their own circle of friends and family, but there is one woman who stood out. Her quilts, startling in their quality and originality, and having caught the world’s attention, were displayed in the Smithsonian Institution and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where the name of their creator, Harriet Powers, is preserved.
Powers was born a slave in Georgia. Her maiden name is unknown, as are the circumstances of her birth and childhood. She was married to Armstead Powers and had three children, two of whom were born in slavery; the third was born in 1866 just after the end of the Civil War ...
A version of this article originally appeared in Black Women in America, 2nd ed.