SOUTHERN QUILTING TRADITIONS





Above are two Star of Bethlehem quilts, one in African American tradition and the other in European American tradition. The origins of the two major influences on Southern Quilting are very different -- originating on different continents and merging in America on slave plantations where division between white and black culture was distinct. Yet, as can be seen in the following examples, the differences of background and tradition, while seemingly distinct, do little to stop the merging of the two traditions. Both types of quilting are highly symbolic, both rely heavily on the process of story-telling, and both rely heavily on the union of women to produce and pass them on. While distinctions have been made between the different styles and symbols of the two different traditions-- and especially continue to be made academically as areas of study become more focused on cultural groups and regional identity -- what stands out more strikingly is the similarities in motive, use, and reproduction of the quilts. The two following sections explain in more detail the traditions and patterns of African American and European American quilts. One objective of the following two sections is to provide greater background knowledge with which to understand the quilting tradition and how it has become what it is today. However, and perhaps more importantly, is the purpose of developing an argument that the two different traditions are perhaps more similar than were their origins and that they, both distinctly and in the ways they have merged over time, play the same role and produce the same effect on American culture.




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