The Black History Collection
Everyone’s story is unique, with chapters waiting to be mined like precious metals. When I was told there were recorded stories from former slaves, I knew I had struck gold. My longtime interest in history, especially Black History found a new outlet and I dug into the transcripts. Most of my short stories are based on the emotional accounts of slipping slavery’s grasp, hiding in treacherous places, then bolting into freedom or for some, enduring until freedom marched to them.
The textile panels add a visual layer to the narratives. A particular scene from a narrative is imprinted in my mind. Then, with fabric and thread, I piece together with concentrated abandon what could have taken place.
17″ L x 12 1/2″ W
A slave in her youth to the President of Princeton College. She was granted her freedom then used her keen intellect to educate others. Betsey became the first single, female African American missionary to Hawaii. Over her forty year career she established schools in Hawaii, with Native Americans in Canada, and African-Americans in Philadelphia.
24″L x 21 1/2″ W
On Christmas night 1856, Robert escaped on horseback across the freezing Potomac River. He left behind his imprisoned wife and four children who were destined to be sold the next day. Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, he revealed the gifts his wife had packaged for him; her daguerreotype likeness and locks of hair from her and the children. These were all he would hold of his family this side of eternity.
Sidney “Charity” Still
23 1/2″ L x 18″ W
A runaway slave-mother left two young sons in bondage. She persisted in prayer for years over her boys. Forty years later, one son came through the doors of her youngest child, William Still, a conductor on the Underground Railroad. They met “by chance.” Peter was reunited with his parents. A mother’s prayers were answered.
A Three-Fold Cord
24 1/2″ L x 17″W
Two runaway slaves were imprisoned but escaped into the deep woods. A third slave discovered them and helped with provisions. The three formed a tight bond and eventually fled for freedom together.
28 1/2 ” L x 24 3/4/” W
Arnold, a nineteen-year-old slave, took the challenge to row a young slave girl across the Ohio River to freedom. This ignited his four-year journey to help over two-hundred slaves escape by this route. After being discovered, he and his young wife eventually rowed to freedom as well.
Clarissa Davis 1854
15 1/2″ L x 14″ W
Escaped with her brothers but was separated from them and ended up seventy-five days in hiding. She prayed for a heavy rain to shield her way to a ship sailing north. At three AM on the 75th day her prayer was answered with torrential showers. She boarded a ship and was united with her brothers in freedom’s land.