African American Books


Books and Publications


Quilt artist Kyra Hicks has documented the most extensive listing of papers and publications about African-Americans and quilting ever compiled. It is scheduled for publication in November 2002 under the title, BLACK THREADS: AN AFRICAN AMERICAN SOURCEBOOK (see below).

Arnett, William, et al. Gee’s Bend: The Women and Their Quilts.

350 color illustrations plus 30 black and white illustrations and charts. Another exploration of the quilts created in this African-American community since the 19th century.

Arnett, William, et al. The Quilts of Gee’s Bend: Masterpieces From A Lost Place.

Book includes 110 color illustrations and an historical overview of quilting in this African-American community over the past 200 years.

Benberry, Cuesta. A Piece of My Soul: Quilts by Black Arkansans. University of Arkansas: 2000.

Cuesta Benberry, an internationally renown quilt historian curated the exhibit this book documents. The book showcases more than 75 quilts in full color and provides commentary about the history of each.

Benberry, Cuesta. Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts.. Kentucky Quilt Project: 19922.

Although it is now out-of-print, this book is so important that it must be mentioned. Prior to publication of Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts, quilts created by African-Americans that could not be defined as folk art and that did not otherwise fit within a very narrowly defined range of styles, patternings and craftsmanship was either ignored or dismissed by those who established themselves as "scholars" of African-Americation quilting. As an internationally renown and highly respected quilt historian and true scholar, Cuesta Benberry was well positioned to challenge the status quo. The book documents that she did this successfully. In addition to the out-of-print book search engine located on the main Books and Publications page, you may still be able to locate a copy of this book by checking with the gift shops of art musuems.

Ezell, Nora McKeon. My Quilts and Me: The Diary of an American Quilter. Black Belt Press, Montgomery, Alabama, 1999.

This richly illustrated and detailed book about the work of the Alabama folkartist Nora Ezell is also a diary of her thoughts as she creates her quilts. Named a 1992 National Heritage Fellow in the National Endowment for the Arts program that recognizes individuals who carry on folk traditions in the United States, in 1990, she also received the Alabama Folk Heritage Award, the state’s highest honor for achievement in the traditional arts.

Flournoy, Valerie. The Patchwork Quilt. Pearson Learning: 1985.

A little girl makes a quilt with her grandmother.

Freeman, Roland. A Communion of the Spirits: African American Quilters, Preservers, and Their Stories. Nashville, Tennessee: Rutledge Hill Press, 1997.

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Considered the "Bible" for information about quilts, quilters and quilting traditions among African-Americans, this book has almost 400 pages with extensive profiles of African-American quilters throughout the United States. Arranged chronologically, Roland Freeman as a photodocumentarian has captured history in the making and has highlighted the lives and creativity of many who would otherwise be forever unknown. The profiles are accompanied by full color photographs.

NOTE: a signed copy of this book is available through the Mississippi Cultural Crossroads store.

Fry, Gladys-Marie. Stitched From the Soul: Slave Quilts From the Antebellum South. University of North Carolina Press: 2002

This richly illustrated book offers a glimpse into the lives and creativity of African American quilters during the era of slavery. Originally published in 1989, Stitched from the Soul was the first book to examine the history of quilting in the enslaved community and to place slave-made quilts into historical and cultural context. It remains a beautiful and moving tribute to an African American tradition.

Hicks, Kyra. Black Threads: An African American Sourcebook. McFarland and Company: 2002.

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Quilt artist Kyra Hicks has documented the most extensive listing of papers and publications about African-Americans and quilting ever compiled. This will be “a must have” in your collection of books about quilting among African-Americans.

Hopkinson, Deborah, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.

A young slave girl makes a quilt that is a map to freedom.

Hopkinson, Deborah. Under the Quilt of Night. Atheneum: 2002.

Under the quilt of night a young slave girl leads her loved ones away from the slave master who worked them: "hoeing and picking, / mending and sewing, / till my hands got raw." In this striking companion to Deborah Hopkinson and James Ransome’s Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, Hopkinson uses the rhythm of verse to echo the drumming of the slaves’ feet as they travel along the Underground Railroad in pre-Civil War times.

Luke-Boone, Ronke. African Fabrics: Sewing Contemporary Fashion With Ethnic Flair: Patterns. Krause Publications: 2001.

Explores the versatility of African textiles. 14 projects and 3 patterns are included.

Lyons, Mary E. Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers. Aladdin Paperbacks: 1997.

Biography of Harriet Powers and her two Bible Quilts, one of which now resides in the Smithsonian.

Marsh, Carole. Let’s Quilt Our African-American Heritage & Stuff It Topographically! [no picture available]

Includes information about the African-American contribution to quilting plus instructions and ideas for creating a simple or complex quilt featuring various aspects of the African-American experience. Click Here to Order

Mazloomi, Carolyn. In the Spirit of the Cloth: Contemporary African American Quilts. Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1998.

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This exquisitely beautiful book showcases 150 quilts created by 63 contemporary African-American quilt artists. Full-color photographs capture the vibrancy, ingenuity, creativity and talent of these men and women. The book divides the work by theme including: "Visions of Africa"; "Memories of Home"; "Healing: A Balm in Gilead"; "Sacred Space"; "Social and Political Protest"; "Praise Songs"; "Black, Female, and Empowered"; and "The Gallery".

McDowell, Marsha. African American Quiltmaking in Michigan. Michigan State University Press, 1997.

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This book documents quilts by African-American quilters and the tradition of quilting by African-Americans in the state of Michigan.

Perry, Phyllis Alicia. Stigmata. Hyperion: 1998.

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Written by a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor, this remarkable novel captures the reader immediately. We are caught up in the life of Lizzie, who at 14 inherited a quilt made by her grandmother. This quilt documents the story of her ancestor, Ayo, who as a child was torn from her family in Africa and enslaved in America. Lizzie begins reliving the life of Ayo (slave name Bessie) and marks of stigmata from the chafing of chains and slashing of whips appear on her body. Fear that it is self-mutilation and insanity cause Lizzie to be institutionalized. How Lizzie reclaims her life and comes to terms with the ravages of the past as they affect the present are fascinating.

Porter, Connie Rose. Addy’s Wedding Quilt. Pleasant Company Publications: 2001

This is a book in the American Girl series about a 9-year old African-American girl who wants to make a wedding quilt for her parents (who were forbidden to wed when they were slaves).

Ringgold, Faith. Dancing At the Louvre: Faith Ringgold’s French Collection and Other Story Quilts. University of California Press, 1998.

Faith Ringgold redefines the solemn artistic canon represented by Van Gogh, Matisse, and Monet with her intricate, glorious story quilts. Their fabric and paint layers combine magical realism with politics, feminism, satire, memoir and the weight of African American history. Dancing at the Louvre was designed to accompany a traveling show of Ringgold’s work. It pairs gorgeously rendered color plates with pithy text on her art, life, and politics.

Ringgold, Faith. We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold. New York: Bulfinch Press, 1995. [No Cover Picture Available]

In this lavishly illustrated book, Faith Ringgold talks openly and frankly about her life, including relationship problems with her daughters and coping with racism and sexism in the art world.

Ringgold, Faith. Cassie’s Word Quilt. Knopf, 2002.

In Cassie’s Word Quilt,a young African American girl takes early readers on a remarkable tour of her 1930s-era Harlem home, school, and neighborhood. The tour serves as a vocabulary jaunt, as well.

Ringgold, Faith. Tar Beach. Crown Publisher: 1991