Legendary Athens quiltmaker, Harriet Powers, to be honored this Saturday
On Dec. 2, quilters, community members and members of the Powers family will gather at the Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery to honor the “Mother of African American Quilting,” Harriet Powers. The service will honor her life and legacy by gifting Powers and her husband, Armstead Powers, with a new headstone from the Women of Color Quilters Network.
Powers was born into slavery in Clarke County in 1837 and documented historical events and her faith through quiltmaking. Her quilts are full of bold colors that combine West African art traditions with African-American art techniques.
The memorial is doing more than honoring Power’s legacy, it is exposing younger generations to the important contributions of American American Artists, says Fred Smith, the executive director of the East Athens Development Corporation.
“It’s also important for this generation to know what she achieved too and hopefully can be inspired by the fact that someone, you know, from such humble backgrounds, you know, could go on and achieve what we today consider greatness.” (5:45)
Only two quilts survive her, the Bible Quilt and the Pictorial Quilt. Both quilts depict stories from the Old and New Testaments and real-world events like the great Leonid meteor shower of 1833. Both quilts are on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, respectively.
More than a century after her death, Powers remains an important figure in American art. Her original designs, vivid imagery and storytelling inspired future generations of American Quiltmakers.