Rokeby delves into Underground Railroad quilt myth

Burroughs Lamar Photography
Quilt by Ife Felix.

Historian, author and Harriet Tubman scholar Kate Clifford Larson will speak about the enduring myth surrounding quilt patterns and the Underground Railroad Sunday at the Rokeby Museum in Ferrisburgh.

The illustrated lecture begins at 3 p.m. in conjunction with the museum’s special exhibit, “Fabric of Emancipation,” featuring pieced quilts made by African American fabric artists.

Myths and stories about the history of the Underground Railroad are often a mixture of fact, folklore, and speculation. In spite of a surge in research and documentation, myths and legends persist such as the belief that quilt patterns served as a secret code to aid fugitives from slavery in 19th century America.

Larson will discuss the root of this myth, its counterfactual elements, and its curious proliferation during the late 20th century. She will also share real escape stories to demonstrate the readily available sources that reveal the real people, places, and methods of the Underground Railroad.

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