Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
Secrets: Signs and Symbols
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Music The Language of Quilts Language of the Railroad Teacher Tips

The Secrets of quilts The Language of Quilts

Since the beginning of time, people have always needed to reach out to others. They need to express their thoughts, dreams, and needs. Today, we do this mainly by writing and talking. But there are many other ways people can communicate as well.

One way that they can do this is by using pictures or symbols. By using these forms, people can tell others what they are thinking about. They have used symbols to create things such as totem poles and tattoos. Each of these expresses what their creators believe about their world.

Monkey Wrench Pattern
Monkey Wrench

Drunkard's Path Pattern
Drunkard’s Path

For example, in the African republic of Benin, the Fon people have made banners for centuries. They use symbols sewn onto the banners to represent events in their history, such as the good things their kings have done. When Africans were forced to come to America as slaves, they brought with them many rich
traditions like this.

Many slaves did not have a chance to learn how to read and write. In some cases, they were not even allowed to talk to one another. They had to be clever, and find other ways to "talk" and tell their stories about everyday life.

Quilts — with their patterns and symbols — may have helped them to do this.

Find out more about the language of quilts... »

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