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auburn studies the quilts

alicia carroll

denise davis-maye

garnetta (chi chi) lovett

tracy oleinick

katherine perry

brenda peters

kyes stevens



Denise Davis-MayeDenise Davis-Maye, Ph.D., LCSW, is an Assistant Professor in Auburn University's Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work. She is a licensed clinical social worker with an interest in the psychosocial development of African American girls, sociocultural and sociohistorical influences on African American families, and asset building and retention in African American families and communities.


"Stitching Hands: The Sociocultural Significance of Quilters and their Quilts in the Black Belt"

Denise Davis-Maye

" My mother taught me how to wash baby diapers on a washboard. She taught me all the things that,... I don't know how I can put it in words. My mother was a mother, she was teachin' me..." (Hudley, Haight & Miller, 2003, p. 11) This statement mirrors the sentiments of contemporary women as they reflect on the contributions of their birth mothers and other-mothers in several Black Belt communities. For centuries, women of African descent, in bondage and in freedom, have fulfilled pivotal roles in the development of cultural epistemology. This way of knowing is driven by social, creative, spiritual forces, and at times by simple necessity. The Alabama Black Belt, a western central region of the state, initially named for its dark, fertile soil, boasts a cadre of women who retained quilting methods passed on by their foremothers, including the strip fabric construction method, use of vibrantly colored fabrics, mixing of multiple textures, and meaningful designs like the "Marriage Circle." Though these quilts were sold for financial gain at times, they were primarily shared within families and communities to commemorate life milestones.

I have been exploring several areas related to women of African descent in the Black Belt and quilting, including: 1) the methods and context of quilting skill transfer (or teaching); 2) the process by which quilting was established as a cultural pattern in the families of the women; and 3) the significance of the quilt and the quilters to the quilters' families and communities.


Quilt images courtesy of Tinwood Media | All other photographs courtesy Jim Peppler, 1966, all rights reserved

The Quilts of Gee's Bend in Context