Replica of famous quilt on display in Athens

Elder Law Attorney, Athens GA

A replica of one of Harriet Powers’ famous quilts was on display last Thursday afternoon at the Athens-Clarke County Library. People who attended a program at the library that day had the opportunity to see the quilt, according to an article in the Athens Banner-Herald.

Harriet Powers is one of the best-known southern African American quilt makers, even though only two of her quilts, both of which she made after the Civil War (1861-65), survive today.

One of the quilts is part of the National Museum of American History collection at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The second quilt is in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts. The cotton quilts consist of numerous pictorial squares depicting biblical scenes and celestial phenomena. They were constructed through applique and piecework and were hand and machine stitched, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

“Quilters have created a replica of the famous ‘Bible Story’ quilt owned by the Smithsonian, which loaned a replica of it to the Athens-Clarke Library,” the ABH article reads. “It will be on display in a special Black History Month program at 3:30 p.m. Thursday in the children’s story room. The program is aimed at children 4-11, who will get to participate in a quilting project of their own.”

Powers was born into slavery near Athens on October 29, 1837, and lived more than half her life in Clarke County, mainly in Sandy Creek and Buck Branch.

Powers refused to sell her quilt to one artist and art teacher at the Lucy Cobb Institute, a school for elite white females in Athens. But, years later Powers agreed to sell it to her for $10, which is the equivalent of about $250 in 2017. The art teacher told Powers she could only afford $5 and Powers sold it to her anyhow and explained to her what each of the quilt’s 11 panels meant.

Some of the panels on the quilt include depictions of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Satan among seven stars, Cain killing his brother Abel, the baptism of Christ, his betrayal by Judas, and others, the ABH reports.