The original book on the renowned Freedom quilters of Gee's Bend
In December of 1965, the year of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, a white Episcopal priest driving through a desperately poor, primarily black section of Wilcox County found himself at a great bend of the Alabama River. He noticed a cabin clothesline from which were hanging three magnificent quilts unlike any he had ever seen. They were of strong, bold colors in original, op-art patterns—the same art style then fashionable in New York City and other cultural centers. An idea was born and within weeks took on life, in the form of the Freedom Quilting Bee, a handcraft cooperative of black women artisans who would become acclaimed throughout the nation.
List of Plates/MapsPrefaceThe Freedom Quilting BeeFrom Civil Rights to Patchwork QuiltsQuilt Auctions in New York CityGee's Bend: The Culture that Shaped the Quilting BeeThe Quilting Bee Obtains Professional HelpFreedom Sparks the “Patchwork Look”The Quilting Bee Goes CommercialA Factory Comes to the CornfieldChurch Groups Aid the Quilting BeeFreedom's Bread and Butter: The Sears ContractFreedom Leads the Co-op MovementThe Women of the Freedom Quilting BeeMinder Pettway ColemanAolar Carson MoselyMattie Clark RossMary Boykin RobinsonChina Grove MylesLucy Marie MingoNettie Pettway YoungPolly Mooney BennettMama Willie AbramsEstelle Abrams WitherspoonEpilogueIndexColor PlatesStar of Bethlehem, circa 1968Crazy Quilt, 1967(eight-pointed star pattern), 1967Chestnut Bud, 1966“The Largest Quilt in the World,” 1969Coat of Many Colors, 1981(broken star pattern), circa 1970China Grove Myles and Pine Burr, 1976MapsWilcox, Lowndes, and Dallas counties in the Alabama Black BeltGee's Bend and environs along the Alabama River
Nancy Callahan (1946–2020) was a journalist, cultural historian, and mental health counselor living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. She is the author of Hurricane Creek: Personal Accounts and Collected Lore.
"The author expertly weaves the history, the hardships of poor blacks in a downtrodden racist society and the economics of the long struggle to become self-sufficient. Callahan proves she can handle a complex, multi-charactered, significant piece of Southern history." —Atlanta Constitution
“This book is one that should be read by anyone interested in African American culture, women’s culture, handicrafts, or history. . . . [The Freedom Quilting Bee] is so well-written and so interesting, it will spark the reader's interest from the outset.” —Mid-America Folklore
"The Freedom Quilting Bee is a modern success storythis book is about people cooperating, about women who work hard to make their dreams come true. It is a story about poverty, civil rights, folk art and crafts in rural America, about caring humans who became involved to help one another. The Freedom Quilting Bee touches many disciplines, but most of all, it gives us insight into the human heart."