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Communion of the Spirits: African American Quilters, Preservers, and Their Stories

November 19, 1998 – March 30, 1999

Location: Arts and Industries Building, North Hall

This exhibition is a result of the first national survey of contemporary African American quilts, quilters, and quilt preservers. In the 1970s, photographer Roland L. Freeman began documenting traditional crafts in rural African American communities in southwest Mississippi. As co-director of the Mississippi Folklife Project, he collected stories and photographs of quilts, quilting, and the importance of quiltmaking across generations. The quilters’ stories awakened Freeman’s memories of quilts and quiltmakers in his own family. To learn more, Freeman recontacted the Mississippi quilters in the 1990s. Some had moved to other parts of the country and connected Freeman with still more quilters and quilting groups. Over time, he realized that their individual stories coalesced into a countrywide collective. He organized the stories by region, crisscrossing the US to follow new leads and fill in gaps. The exhibit draws on Freeman’s continuing fieldwork and includes the stories and work of quilters in 38 states and the District of Columbia.