To celebrate Black History Month last year at school, I wanted each grade level to create a collective class quilt, made up of individual squares created by the students. They were displayed during our schoolwide program and really made a statement.
For the 2nd and 3rd grade classes, we studied the colorful, graphic quilts of Gee’s Bend. I created a powerpoint showing examples of these unique quilts, focusing on the many different lines and colors found in each design, as well as their history. My students found it interesting that a lot of the quilts were sewn together using old scraps of clothing, which the artists felt helped to bring the spirits of their loved ones into their creations. We also read Stitchin’ and Pullin’: A Gee’s Bend Quilt, by Patricia McKissack. It’s a beautiful, poetic story of the tradition of the Gee’s Bend quilters through the eyes of a little girl, her family’s and community’s stories, as well as her ancestors’ struggle for freedom. My students were also amazed to hear how these talented women’s quilts were displayed in art museums around the world. Using this inspiration, they planned and designed a quilt square using different types of line patterns and bold colors. I taped each student’s quilt square into one large quilt to display. They all came together so well!