Children's Literature in Education

, Volume 44, Issue 1, pp 29–43 | Cite as

“Texts Like a Patchwork Quilt”: Reading Picturebooks About Slavery

  • Paula T. ConnollyEmail author
Original Paper


This article examines narrative strategies present in picturebooks about slavery that feature quilts. Against the depicted dangers of slavery, images of quilts serve to offer a sense of hope and in that way they provide a means of discussing difficult subjects with very young readers. As a central image in these texts, the quilt is variously represented as an artifact of remembrance, an image of hope, a type of testimony, and a sign of safety. This article focuses on a selection of texts to explore how verbal and visual images work to present and mitigate issues of historical violence. Additionally, the ways the image of the quilt intra- and extra-textually functions as a metanarrative comment on the construction of picturebooks are examined.


Picturebooks Slavery Quilts 


  1. Andrews, William L. (1988). Introduction. In Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Eds.), Six Women’s Slave Narratives (pp. xxix–xli). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. “Anti-Slavery Fair” (1834, December 20). Liberator, 4(51), 203. Accessed August 10, 2011, from American Periodicals Series Online.Google Scholar
  3. Bachelard, Gaston. (1969/1958). The Poetics of Space (Maria Jolas, Trans., Foreword by Etienne Gilson). Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bassett, Lynne Zacek (Ed.). (2009). Massachusetts Quilts: Our Common Wealth. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.Google Scholar
  5. Benberry, Cuesta. (1992). Always There: The African-American Presence in American Quilts. Louisville: The Kentucky Quilt Project.Google Scholar
  6. Botkin, B. A. (Ed.). (1973/1945). Lay My Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery (Foreword by Jerrold Hirsch). New York: Dell Publishing.Google Scholar
  7. Brackman, Barbara. (2006). Facts and Fabrications: Unraveling the History of Quilts and Slavery. Lafayette, CA: C&T Publishing.Google Scholar
  8. Child, Lydia Maria [L.M.C.]. (1837, January 2). The Ladies’ Fair. Liberator, 7(1), 3. Accessed August 10, 2011, from American Periodicals Series Online.Google Scholar
  9. Connolly, Paula T. (2003). Narrative Tensions: Telling Slavery, Showing Violence. In Ann Lawson Lucas (Ed.), The Presence of the Past in Children’s Literature (pp. 107–112). Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  10. Douglass, Frederick. (1997/1845). Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself (William L. Andrews and William S. McFeely, Eds.). New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  11. Edwards, Pamela Duncan, and Cole, Henry (illus.). (1997). Barefoot: Escape on the Underground Railroad. New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  12. Ferrero, Pat, Hedges, Elaine, and Silber, Julie. (1987). Hearts and Hands: The Influence of Women and Quilts on American Society. San Francisco: The Quilt Digest Press.Google Scholar
  13. Fry, Gladys-Marie. (2002/1990). Stitched from the Soul: Slave Quilts from the Antebellum South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar
  14. Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. (1989/1988). The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Hicks, Kyra E. (2009). This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers’ Bible Quilt and Other Pieces. Arlington, VA: Black Threads Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hopkinson, Deborah, and Ransome, James E. (illus.). (1993). Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  17. Hopkinson, Deborah, and Ransome, James E. (illus.). (2001). Under the Quilt of Night. New York: Atheneum-Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  18. Johnson, Dolores. (1993). Now Let Me Fly: The Story of a Slave Family. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  19. Kiefer, Barbara Z. (1995). The Potential of Picturebooks: From Visual Literacy to Aesthetic Understanding. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  20. Levine, Lawrence W. (1977). Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought from Slavery to Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Lyons, Mary E. (1993). Stitching Stars: The Story Quilts of Harriet Powers. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.Google Scholar
  22. McKissack, Patricia C., McKissack, Frederick L., and Thompson, John (illus.). (1994). Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters. New York: Scholastic.Google Scholar
  23. Millman, Joyce. (2005). Faith Ringgold’s Quilts and Picturebooks: Comparisons and Contributions. Children’s Literature in Education, 36(4), 381–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Murrill, Leslie. (2005). Do Young Readers Need Happy Endings. In Darwin L. Henderson and Jill May (Eds.), Exploring Culturally Diverse Literature for Children and Adolescents: Learning to Listen in New Ways (pp. 356–368). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.Google Scholar
  25. Nikolajeva, Maria, and Scott, Carole. (2001). How Picturebooks Work. New York: Garland.Google Scholar
  26. Nodelman, Perry. (1988). Words About Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  27. Orlofsky, Patsy, and Orlofsky, Myron. (1992/1974). Quilts in America. New York: Abbeville.Google Scholar
  28. Raven, Margot Theis, and Lewis, E. B. (illus.). (2006). Night Boat to Freedom. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  29. Ringgold, Faith. (1992). Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky. New York: Crown.Google Scholar
  30. Ringgold, Faith. (1995). We Flew Over the Bridge: The Memoirs of Faith Ringgold. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.Google Scholar
  31. Sernett, Milton C. (2007). Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Shaw, Robert. (2009). American Quilts: The Democratic Art, 1780–2007. New York: Sterling.Google Scholar
  33. Sipe, Lawrence R. (1998). How Picture Books Work: A Semiotically Framed Theory of Text–Picture Relationships. Children’s Literature in Education, 29(2), 97–108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Sipe, Lawrence R. (2000). “Those Two Gingerbread Boys Could be Brothers”: How Children Use Intertextual Connections During Storybook Readalouds. Children’s Literature in Education, 31(2), 73–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sipe, Lawrence R., and McGuire, Caroline E. (2006). Young Children’s Resistance to Stories. The Reading Teacher, 60(1), 6–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Stewig, John Warren. (1995). Looking at Pictures. Fort Atkinson, WI: Highsmith Press.Google Scholar
  37. Stroud, Bettye, and Bennett, Erin Susanne. (illus.). (2005). The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.Google Scholar
  38. Tobin, Jacqueline L., and Dobard, Raymond G. (1999). Hidden in Plain View: The Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad. New York: Doubleday.Google Scholar
  39. Vaughan, Marcia, and Johnson, Larry. (illus.). (2001). The Secret to Freedom. New York: Lee and Low Books.Google Scholar
  40. Walker, Alice. (1983/1974). In In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose by Alice Walker (pp. 231–243). San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  41. Weinraub, Anita Zaleski. (Ed.). (2006). Georgia Quilts: Piecing Together a History. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  42. Whelan, Gloria, and van Frankenhuyzen, Gijsbert. (illus.). (2004). Friend on Freedom River. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.Google Scholar
  43. White, Deborah Gray. (1985). Ar’n’t I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South. New York: W. W. Norton.Google Scholar
  44. Woodson, Jacqueline. (2011). Accessed August 19, 2011, from
  45. Woodson, Jacqueline, and Talbott, Hudson. (illus.). (2005). Show Way. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.Google Scholar
  46. Wright, Courtni C., and Griffith, Gershom. (illus.). (1994). Journey to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railroad. New York: Holiday House.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishUniversity of North Carolina at CharlotteCharlotteUSA

Personalised recommendations