Harriet Powers Is Born

Harriet Powers (October 29, 1837 – January 1, 1910) was an African American slave, folk artist and quilt maker from rural Georgia.

She used traditional appliqué techniques to record local legends, Bible stories, and astronomical events on her quilts. Only two of her quilts have survived: Bible Quilt 1886 and Bible Quilt 1898. Her quilts are considered among the finest examples of nineteenth-century Southern quilting. Her work is on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Massachusetts.

African-American folk artist Harriet Powers, now nationally recognized for her quilts, was born in rural Georgia on October 29, 1837. Using traditional appliqué technique, Powers recorded local legends, Bible stories, and astronomical events on her quilts. Considered among the finest examples of nineteenth-century Southern quilting, Powers's work is on display at the Smithsonian Institution and is featured in the online exhibition Seven Southern Quilters.

In 1938, one hundred years after Powers's birth, Mayme Reese shared her own memories of quilting in turn-of-the-century South Carolina with a Federal Writers' Project interviewer. Just as the beauty of Powers's work transcended race and class, Reese's recollections suggest fine quilting was a skill Southern women of all classes appreciated.

Sometimes rich white women would hear that such and such a person had won the prize for pretty quilts, they'd come and ask that person to make them a quilt…Sometimes they'd make it and sometimes they wouldn't…If they did make it, they'd get around five dollars…Sometimes they'd furnish the scraps and sometimes they wouldn't. Most of the time, though, they'd buy pieces of goods and give it to the person who was making the quilt to cut up. ”

— "Mrs. Mayme Reese," New York City