This is my "Harriet Tubman: Many Thousand Gone" quilt. In the spring of 1996, Janie and I were teaching our Pre-K class about the Underground Railroad. Together with a parent in the class and the children we created an Underground Railroad quilt. That quilt still hangs at the school. That summer Janie and I made our own versions.
The central image of Harriet was inspired by this illustration by Leo and Diane Dillon, from the wonderful book Many Thousand Gone: African Americans From Slavery to Freedom by Virginia Hamilton.
From the book . . . "Harriet carried a pistol at all times . . . If the runaways she led were too fearful and wanted to turn back, she would point her pistol at them. "You go or you die," she would say. None ever died. "I never run my train off the track.""
There are three hundred buttons representing the more than three hundred people Harriet led to freedom in the north.
I began making the flying geese blocks, thinking they would aim toward the northern sky. After a while I was tired of making them, counted them, there were nineteen. She made nineteen trips south to save others. They point south now.
And there's the "water" with our footprints in it- the Ohio River, where they crossed to freedom.
"Safe houses" that comforted and cared for those running for freedom. This one was made by Janie's daughter, who was in our class that year. A whippoorwill for the calls Harriet would send out from the woods, letting the slaves know she had come for them.
A fifth grader designed this block of Harriet's face, wearing her bandana.
Harriet Tubman spent her life working hard, doing good- Underground Railroad conductor, nurse, spy, caretaker for the old and indigent . . . a hero... a human being.