THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN QUILTS
Cassandra Stancil Gunkel, PA Humanities Council, Commonwealth Speaker
Sunday, May 18, 2014, 2:00 p.m.
Location: Community Room, First United Methodist Church, 602 S. Market Street, Muncy
The Underground Railroad, the secret paths traveled by African Americans who escaped slavery in the South, is well documented by historians. Far more elusive is evidence that slaves used quilts as signals to guide their way to freedom. This hands-on talk and demonstration engages in the ongoing debate between historians and the public —did quilts guide escapes? Authentic 19th century quilts and modern reproductions are used to explore some of the ways in which women may have stitched their politics, history and mythology into quilt designs.
A folklorist who specializes in fiber arts, Cassandra Gunkel has studied African American quilts and textiles to document the lives of women who captured their histories and stories in their creative work.
Cassandra Gunkel’s family sewed and quilted for African American communities in coastal North Carolina and Virginia for generations. To continue that work, Gunkel researches and teaches cultural traditions, fiber arts and Pennsylvania history. She also travels with a collection of historic and reproduction quilts that showcase the many ways that women kept track of their lives and experiences with needle and thread. She has exhibited numerous times and has organized quilt exhibitions around southeastern Pennsylvania. Gunkel lives in Bucks County and holds a PhD in Folklore and Folklife from the University of Pennsylvania.