Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hidden in Plain View

Hidden in Plain View: The Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad –by Jacqueline L Tobin and Raymond G. Dobard, Ph.D.

History, African American
220 pages (including glossary, etc.
Footnotes/Endnotes: None
Illustrations: Yes, black and white, color, and line drawings
Suitable for eReaders: Possibly (graphics capability)

Rainy Day has read a bit, here and there, on the Underground Railroad, and how the urban (or perhaps suburban) legend of folks hanging quilts in certain ways guided the slaves on their journey. That has been pretty well debunked, and this book does not talk about that.

This book talks about the symbology of the quilt patterns, and how they instructed the slaves. Most slaves left in the spring, which was when quilts used all winter were aired. The authors talked about how the quilts were hung on fences to air, and the story they (may have) told. They were, according to the authors, used to tell the slaves when it was time to leave. However, did the house slaves have the authority to decide when to air the quilts? And in what order? Rainy Day also doesn't believe the slaves had access to enough scraps from the house to make their own quilts in such designs. Those quilts would have been kept in the house. Rainy Day suspicions the quilts the slaves made for themselves more closely resembled those of Gee's Bend of today. Click here for images of Gee's Bend quilts. For a bit of history on the Gee's Bend collective, go here.

Frankly, Rainy Day doesn't think the quilts played all that important a roll; however, she is not an historian. What she did find interesting in the book were the comparisons of the quilt squares with African patterns brought by the slaves. And the history of the spiritual, and how the slaves were denied their drums but figured out how to use their feet to stomp to their old drum beats. Not as effective, but better than nothing.

This book was not overly easy or accessible to read.  And unless one is either an avid quilter, or historian of the Underground Railroad, and or days of slavery, Rainy Day recommends you pass on it, and read other books.

1 comment:

  1. Skip *this* book but read others on the subject, I presume? YOU have interested me in the subject, just with your review. What book *do* you recommend as most probably & reliable on subject? (P.S. second Gee link did not connect)