Part three of the PP forum Block of the Month - Underground Railroad
The Next Step.....
Hello passengers. We continue our journey on the Underground Railroad this month with another interesting block name and pattern for you.
October’s block took us to the beginning stages of our journey. It was a block, that when seen in a quilt, would give any future escapees the signal to commence gathering the necessities for the trip.
November’s block is called ‘The Wagon Wheel’. It was the second quilt to be placed on display by a safe house or even possibly a conductor. The message to pack provisions, and the necessities that were needed, came from our ‘Monkey Wrench’ block, and this next block re-issues that same significant warning.
The Wagon Wheel quilt was a signal to the slave to pack the items needed to travel by wagon or that could be used while travelling. It could also mean to pack the provisions necessary for survival, as if packing a wagon for a long journey, or to actually load the wagon in preparation for escape. Some records indicate this symbol meant a wagon with hidden compartments in which slaves could conceal themselves, would soon be embarking on the trip towards freedom or that there was indeed a wagon nearby and was ready for passengers.
As slaves toiled in the fields during the long days, they could be heard singing ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’. This was considered to be a hidden symbol of ‘the chariot’ or ‘wagon’ that was to assist in part of their eventual passage to freedom.
To this day a story circulates about a minister who drove his wagon through the streets of Nebraska City, Nebraska. The two ladies sitting with him wore sunbonnets and this not being unusual, no notice was ever taken of them. Apparently some time later, half an hour or so, he would retrace his trip through the city streets with two sun bonneted ladies beside him. As luck would have it, no one seemed to notice that the latter two ladies had dark complexions. Each trip meant another step in the journey to freedom for those ladies in sunbonnets.
The Wagon Wheel
So, once again, each participant must find a block pattern with the name of ‘Wagon Wheel’. The size of your finished block is completely up to you. If you have any trouble drafting a block to your required size, email Katy with your original block diagram, and the finished size that you want, and she will redraft it for you. When you have finished your block, post a picture on the forum for everyone to enjoy or email a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org
Underground Railroad Sampler quilts grew from the belief that quilts made with specific block patterns were used as signals to communicate a message to the African American people escaping from slavery in the US by travelling in secret to Canada. In recent years quilt historians and academics have debated over whether quilts really did feature as a widespread method of communication, and you can read about this in Xenia Cord's article, The Underground Railroad