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Historical and Contemporary Quilts and Quilters from the African American Community

Mozell Benson

Mozell Benson is a quilter who lives in Waverly, Alabama. She won the NEA Lifetime Honor Award in 2001. Benson’s innovative use of color, design, and pattern has won her a place in major collections and exhibits. She donates her time to teach children and senior citizens to quilt in her community.

Yvonne Wells

Yvonne Wells is a quilter currently living in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her quilts are story quilts that depict historical events such as the Civil Rights Movement. Using appliqué, Wells designs quilts with ingenious materials and innovative visual designs.

The Robert and Helen Cargo Collection
The Robert and Helen Cargo Collection is a collection of twentieth-century quilts made primarily by African American women from Alabama. The collection is held at the International Quilt Study Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Harriet Powers
Harriet Powers was a quilter from Athens, Georgia who lived 1837-1910. The Georgia Encyclopedia writes: “Powers's quilts are remarkable for their bold use of appliqué for storytelling and for their extensive documentation. Her use of technique and design demonstrates African and African American influences. The use of appliquéd designs to tell stories is closely related to artistic practices in the republic of Benin, West Africa. The uneven squares suggest the syncopation found in African American music.” Very recently, in January 2005, Powers gravestone was discovered in Athens, Georgia. One of her quilts is held at the Smithsonian Museum and the other is in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts .

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